Emotive speech is a social act in which a speaker displays emotional signals with a specific intention; in the case of third-party complaints, this intention is to elicit empathy in the listener. The present study assessed how the emotivity of complaints was perceived in various conditions. Participants listened to short statements describing painful or neutral situations, spoken with a complaining or neutral prosody, and evaluated how complaining the speaker sounded. In addition to manipulating features of the message, social-affiliative factors which could influence complaint perception were varied by adopting a cross-cultural design: participants were either Québécois or French and listened to utterances expressed by both cultural groups. The presence of a complaining tone of voice had the largest effect on participant evaluations, while the nature of statements had a significant, but smaller influence. Marginal effects of culture on explicit evaluation of complaints were found. A multiple mediation analysis suggested that mean fundamental frequency was the main prosodic signal that participants relied on to detect complaints, though most of the prosody effect could not be linearly explained by acoustic parameters. These results highlight a tacit agreement between speaker and listener: what characterizes a complaint is how it is said, more than what it is about or who produces it. More generally, the study emphasizes the central importance of prosody in expressive speech acts such as complaints, which are designed to strengthen social bonds and supportive responses in interactive behavior. This intentional and interpersonal aspect in the communication of emotions needs to be further considered in research on affect and communication.
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DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.619222
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The Empathic Brain: How, When and Why?Frederique de Vignemont & Tania Singer - 2006 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10 (10):435-441.

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