Dr. Edelstein Psych 290, Sec. 08 31 October 2008 In the article, ?Expressions of Positive Emotion in Women's College Yearbook Pictures and Their Relationship to Personality and Life Outcomes Across Adulthood,? Leanne Harker and Dacher Keltner (2001) were trying to measure whether or not a woman?s smiling (in yearbook pictures), correlated with personality traits, marital outcomes, observer?s responses to the pictures, and overall well-being. This research study was a longitudinal study assessing how positive emotional expressions related to personality over time. Harker and Keltner made several hypotheses regarding this study. They proposed that over time positive emotional expressions would continue to correlate at later times during adulthood, as well as predict a more positive emotionality, affiliation, and competence. They also believed that the observers of this study would feel a greater positive emotion and liking towards the women who expressed positive emotions in their photos. The final hypothesis made by this research team was that a positive emotion expressed in the yearbook photos would also predict higher levels of well-being across later assessments throughout adulthood. This study is a result of best practices in research because it uses ethical techniques; and the team also used previous research to form their hypotheses on positive emotional expressions. Using self-report personality measures, observer-report data, and life outcome data, the researchers collected data over 30 years to determine the relationship of an individual?s differences in positive emotional expressions. A sample of 141 senior women (20-21 years old) at Mills College in Oakland participated in a personality characteristics study. These same women were contacted throughout the years by mail at age 27, age 43, and age 52. During each of these assessments, the women filled out personality inventories and answered a series of questions. The yearbook photos of each woman were coded and the researchers looked at the facial behaviors (particularly the Duchenne smile) of each woman. Each of these photos was observed by six undergraduate psychology students. Every photo was then assessed and the observer was asked the impression that they had of each woman in the photo. The observers then completed a personality rating and an interpersonal impact rating for each photo. Self-report personality measures were taken using the ACL (Adjective Check List), and the words that correlated highest with this study were, ?warm, cheerful, pleasant, sociable, understanding, contented, and affectionate? (Harker & Keltner, 2001, pg. 115). Life outcome data were also assessed by looking at the marital status of each woman over the course of the study. The research team operationalized positive emotionality as being related to the inclusion of the muscles surrounding the eyes (orbicularis oculi muscle). These muscles are very difficult to move voluntarily and in regards to positive emotionality, it would reduce the inaccurate portrayal of positive emotions in the yearbook pictures. There are several limitations to this measurement however. This measure of positive emotionality is a very limited behavior, and by looking at a more diverse range of expressions over time, researchers are more likely to determine the relation between emotional expressions and personality. Looking at expressions over a longer period of time, as well as over different contexts would provide for better data and results. Also looking at positive emotions such as amusement, happiness, and enjoyment would relate to different personality characteristics to look at when determining positive emotionality. Overall, women who smiled more intensely might trigger these eye muscles involuntarily, resulting in inaccurate data and results. This does not necessarily mean that, because these women are smiling in a yearbook picture, that they have greater instances of positive emotions in their lives, it could just mean they were trying to take a decent picture. (3) The results of this study verified the hypotheses of Harker and Keltner (2001). When many of the women showed a higher intensity of positive emotions in their pictures, this correlated to the fact that they were more nurturing, caring, sociable, and less likely to experience negative effects. Consistent with the team?s hypothesis on the observer data, a positive emotional expression correlated positively with the observers? expectations of approaching and accepting the women in a hypothesized situation. Women who showed positive emotions were also likely to be married by age 27 and less likely to be single into middle adulthood. Positive emotional expressions also resulted in a higher marital satisfaction later in life. If this research were to have additional assessments at older ages, the results would remain consistent over time. This consistency is due to the fact that personality factors (such as agreeableness and conscientiousness), tend to increase as we get older, but then level off around the age of 50. If this study assessed people after age 52, you wouldn?t find much of a change overall, and it would most likely not be statistically significant enough to include in the results. (6) Our textbook supports this study, saying that self-reports are often valid and trustworthy when measuring happiness. Our book also states that these reports show that other aspects of a person?s life are related to happiness, such as being satisfied in later marital relationships. Even though this study is an example of best practices, there are several limitations to this study. One limitation of this study was that some participants did not provide data for the different analyses, therefore, the sample was somewhat varied over the different years of testing. Longitudinal studies, such as this, often run into this problem. Although longitudinal designs often are time-consuming and costly, they are one of the only ways to assess a change in personality over time. To address this limitation, an incentive should be given to the individuals, such as an updated record of the findings up to that date. This would provide the individuals with the knowledge that their participation is meaningful. However, to truly address this limitation, researchers should throw out the data when an individual doesn?t report for a specific assessment. Even though there are less individuals then participating in the study, more accurate and reliable data would result. (2) Another limitation of this study is that yearbook photos are often inaccurate portrayals of an individual, and individuals often tend to self-enhance. This self-enhancement may also occur in regards to the results of the self-questionnaires. Because this study only measured smiling as positive emotional expression, a more diverse range of facial expressions should be assessed; a greater amount of pictures should also be taken over the span of time that the study is taking place for a greater variance of expressions. The study also focused entirely on women, most likely due to women being more expressive. A study involving men would be imperative when providing future research on this topic. Overall, even though it has its limitations, this longitudinal study provides an in-depth analysis on the topic of positive emotions. This study also shows us how different positive emotions and personality traits are linked to positive reactions from observers, personal well-being, and marital satisfactions later in life.
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