Design and Innovation Research Seminar by Mary Waller | Weatherhead School at Case Western Reserve University

Design and Innovation Research Seminar by Mary Waller

D&I Keithley Professorship in Technology Mgmt Candidate

READING BETWEEN THE EYES: Facial Expressions of Emotion and Observer Perception of Crisis Communicators

Mary J. Waller, Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Ontario

Serena Sohrab, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Faculty of Business and Information Technology, Oshawa, Ontario,


Organizations are facing more and more varied, unpredictable crises. How CEOs and spokespeople deliver public messages during crises can greatly influence stakeholder perceptions of both the representatives and their organizations. Existing literature on crisis communication suggests optimal message content strategies to follow for given crisis characteristics, while work in psychology suggests that observers implicitly form impressions and attributions based in part on speakers’ facial displays of emotion. In this study, we integrate these concepts in a study using a press conference simulation. We video recorded 138 MBA students who individually prepared for and assumed the role of organizational spokesperson for an Internet-based retailer embroiled in a customer data hacking crisis. Each speaker presented a one-minute statement and was then asked questions by three reporters (confederates); speakers had no prior knowledge of questions. Three trained independent judges subsequently viewed each video and rated the speaker on scales of believability, convincingness, and trustworthiness. The content of each speaker’s statement and answers was transcribed and coded as to content strategy. Each speaker’s facial expression of emotion was measured using a face-mapping software algorithm. Our results indicate that a combination of certain message elements and facial emotion during the question-answer portion of the press conference best predicted observers’ ratings. We suggest that future work explore the use of face-mapping algorithms in behavioral training of organizational spokespeople.

Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Peter B. Lewis Building Room 203
11119 Bellflower Road
Cleveland, OH 44106-7235
United States
Speaker(s): Mary Waller, PhD, York University, Toronto, Ontario
Sponsored by: Design and Innovation Department


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