Inferring meaning from variably intense emotion expressions

Whether conveyed by the face, body, or voice, nonverbal emotion expressions are ubiquitous. We are, generally speaking, quite good at inferring meaning from such expressions. It has long been suggested that the stronger an emotional state is expressed, the easier it is to make sense of it. Whether such a generalization is correct, however, is not clear. In this research we approach this question in a novel and parametrically varied way. We use nonverbal vocalizations, such as cries, laughter, moans, and screams, ranging from minimal to maximal emotional intensity, to assess the effects of intensity on vocal emotion perception. We reveal that the role of emotional intensity is paradoxical—among all, especially peak emotion is not the easiest human experience to be interpreted.