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Does “Heart on Your Sleeve” Equal “See What You Get”?

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We all know that people vary in how much they express themselves and their feelings. Some people can’t help but to be themselves. Transparency is this expression of the true self. But are the people that “wear their heart on their sleeves” the same people that we describe as “what you see is what you get”?

In her talk on emotion expression and perception, Marie-Catherine Mignault discussed her new research on accurate expression and perception of emotions and personality. Her main question: Do those who show their true personality also show their true emotions?

According to the Realistic Accuracy Model, the path to an accurate perception of another person’s traits is described in four steps, including relevance and availability of cues from the target of interest, and detection and utilization of these cues by an observer. So, if people are using this same process to express and detect both who you are and your feelings, this may highly link accurate expression of emotions and personality. However, you might instead think of these as different skills that are shaped by social norms. For example, men and women both express their personality, but men are often socialized to suppress their emotional expressions in certain cultures.

In order to better understand what was happening, Mignault set up two first impression study paradigms. One was video recordings of people being interviewed in the lab, which were then watched and rated by another person and compared to the individuals own personality and emotion self-description. To make sure these self-descriptions were accurate, Mignault also had people provide contacts of close others to compare these ratings. The other was a round robin type setting in which participants talked with a new person every 2 minutes and gave self and other ratings for each partner.

So, do those who show their true personality also show their true emotions?

Based on Mignault's research, expressing one’s true personality did not predict expressing one’s true emotions, but expressing a positive, normative personality predicted expressing positive, normative emotions. In other words, if people viewed you as having an average personality they also tended to view your emotions as average (“normative accuracy”); showing the part of your personality that is uniquely you was not related to showing your true and unique emotions.


Written By: Erika Pages, PhD Candidate at Arizona State University

Session: “If I Show My True Personality, Will I Show My True Emotions? Accuracy and Positivity in Expressing One’s Personality and Emotions”, a talk presented at the symposium Can You Read My Emotions? Investigating Emotion Expression and Perception, held on February 28th, 2020

SpeakersMarie-Catherine Mignault, McGill University

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