Comparing self-reported emotions and facial expressions of joy in heterosexual romantic couples

Katja M. Pollak, Sally G. Olderbak, Ashley K. Randall, Kevin K.H. Lau, Nicholas D. Duran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To better understand individual differences in the expression of emotion within intimate relationships, we evaluated and compared patterns in facial expressions of joy against patterns in self-reported expressions of emotions in romantic couples. Using conversational data from 44 heterosexual romantic couples discussing four different topics, we examined the impact of stress on emotion expression, similarity in emotion expression between partners, and the influence of one partner's facial expressions on the self-reported expressions of the other partner. Overall, we found large differences between patterns in facial expressions of joy and patterns in self-reported emotions. First, using social relations analysis and generalizability analysis, we found that self-reported positive and negative emotions changed between stressful and non-stressful conversational topics, whereas facial expressions of joy remained stable. Second, we found similarities between romantic partners were common for self-reported positive emotions, less common for self-reported negative emotions, and uncommon for facial expressions. Finally, using Actor-Partner Interdependence Models, we found facial expressions of joy were unrelated to self-reported positive and negative emotions, and were non-significant predictors of partner's self-reported emotions. Our results challenge the use of only one methodology when measuring emotional experiences, as patterns observed for self-reported emotional data and facial expression data were not the same.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111182
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • Dyadic data
  • Emotion
  • Facial expression
  • Romantic partners
  • Self-report

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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