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What’s so funny about shame? Functions of smiling and laughing in the context of shame – a mixed method approach

Mirella Hladký
Mastersthesis, FernUniversität Hagen, 2022.


Smiling and laughing are commonly associated with the experience of positive emotions. However, they also occur in negative or unpleasant situation. In previous studies, smiles and laughter were observed in shameful situations. The present study applies a mixed methods approach for investigating functions of smiles and laughter in shameful situations and how those reflect in the morphology of expression. Participants were observed during a shame-eliciting job interview role play with a virtual agent. In a qualitative post-interview, they elaborated on the functions of smiles and laughter displayed during the shame-eliciting situations. Results of qualitative content analysis showed that smiles and laughter serve three main function. They can serve intrapersonal and interpersonal functions and be a sign of internal emotions. Those functions can partly be linked to the morphological appearance of smiles. The gained knowledge can improve computational emotion recognition and avoid misinterpretations of smiles and laughter.