“If the objective is to know what another person is feeling and thinking, the best thing you can do, when I am speaking to you, is to close your eyes”.
The words are from Michael Kraus, a researcher at Yale University who published a study in the journal of the American Psychological Association. “Over the years, the social and biological sciences have demonstrated the deep desire of individuals to connect with others, and the enormous amount of resources that people have to discern between different emotions or intentions,” added the author of report.
He also clarified that, in spite of the presence “of both desire and capacity, people often mistakenly perceive the emotions of others”. Research shows that relying on the combination of voice and facial expressions, or only facial expression, may not be the best strategy to accurately identify the emotions or intentions of others.
The results obtained by Kraus contradict the human instinct. This means that the more elements there are to analyze the other’s message, the more accurate the judgment on that person will be. The voice can reveal the emotions (own and others) in a more transparent way than the face, which often masks the true feelings of a person, something difficult to achieve with the voice.
The basic argument of Kraus is that gestures and facial expressions can mask the true feelings of a person, something that is very difficult to achieve with the voice.
The message – and the emotions – of the interlocutor arrive more directly if the concentration focuses exclusively on the voice and we observe its tone, its cadence, its speed and its volume. And, on the other hand, in this case, less is more. That is, paying attention to more stimuli (doing two complex tasks at the same time), causes our attention to be divided instead of focusing, says the researcher.
To reach this conclusion, Kraus – who says that historically research on emotion has focused almost exclusively on facial expressions – carried out five experiments with more than 1,800 participants? “Listening and watching at the same time divides our attention,” the study explained.
Variations in light conditions were reflected in each of these tests. While in some the participants could see their interlocutors, in others the environment was completely dark. In all cases, individuals who only listened without seeing could more accurately identify the emotions experienced by the speaker.
For Kraus, one of the implications of the study is simple. “Listening is important, considering what people are saying and how they can say it can help to improve the understanding of others at work or in personal relationships.”