Interpersonal Sensitivity: Theory and Measurement

By Judith A. Hall; Frank J. Bernieri | Go to book overview

8
The PONS Test
and the Psychometric
Approach to Measuring
Interpersonal Sensitivity
Judith A. Hall
Northeastern University

The question of whether people can judge others' emotions and communicative intentions from behavioral cues has a long history. Darwin (1872/1965) posed it while mustering evidence for his concept that emotion displays are universal and therefore universally recognizable, an idea that had an important place in his arguments for natural selection. Throughout the 20th century, psychologists have investigated the decoding of expressions, asking questions such as whether the sexes differ in their accuracy of judgment, which emotions are easier and harder to judge, and whether the meanings of spontaneous (as opposed to posed) cues can be identified; some of this research dates to the earliest decades of social psychological experimentation (e.g., Feleky, 1914).

Early on, investigators began using fixed sets of expressive stimuli in the form of film clips, photos, drawings, and later, video and audio tape clips. The advantages of using reusable stimulus sets instead of live interaction as a source of cues are many, including the relative ease of establishing criteria for scoring of accuracy. With a standard set the “right answers” need be established only once, instead of again each time a study is undertaken with a new set of expressors or stimuli. One common way of determining what cues have

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