top of page



Non-verbal Communication and Empathy  

"Project: Interindividual differences in Emotional Empathy vs. the differential “visibility” of Emotions, and its social consequences"


YEARS: 2010-2013

(Still ongoing the research line)


Non non-verbal communication cues such as facial expressions may indicate underlying emotions. However, the interpretation accuracy of these cues can vary based on factors like personal experience, and the relationship between the observer and the individual expressing the emotion. Through the above research project, we addressed the questions: "What do facial expressions truly convey?" and whether recognition of emotions and empathy is consistent across species. Our findings revealed that individual emotion expression can be influenced by a myriad of factors, including the advantages of conveying certain information and the inherent interactive nature of the emotion. We found that emotions intended for interaction tend to be more universally recognized, whereas others exhibit more individual variability. Moreover, individuals with a higher degree of emotional empathy were generally more adept at decoding emotional cues, especially when faced with subtle or less overt expressions.

In addition to this project, I have conducted other studies focused on identifying factors that predict emotion recognition in non-verbal communication cues such as empathy (primarily in facial expressions but also in vocalizations), and the role of facial displays in influencing behaviors responses, such as aggression.


Augusta Gaspar (PI, Univ. Católica de Lisboa)

Francisco Esteves (Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden)

Patrícia Arriaga  (ISCTE/IUL, Portugal),

Susana Fonseca (ISCTE/IUL, Portugal)

Frederico Oliveira de Almada (ISPA)

Miquel Llorente Espino (University Ramon Llull, Barcelona, Espanha)

Olga Feliu Olleta (Mona Foundation, Barcelona)



Gaspar, A., Esteves, F., & Arriaga, P. (2014). On prototypical facial expressions versus variation in facial behavior: lessons learned on the “visibility” of emotions from measuring facial actions in humans and apes. In M. Pina and N. Gontier (Eds), The Evolution of Social Communication in Primates: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Series: Interdisciplinary Evolution Research (Vol 1, pp.101-126). New York: Springer International Publishing.


Lima, C. F., Arriaga, P, Anikin, A., Pires, A. R., Frade, S., Neves, L., & Scott, S. K. (2021). Authentic and posed emotional vocalizations trigger distinct facial responses. Cortex, 141, 280-292.

Arriaga, P, & Aguiar, C. (2019). Gender differences in aggression: The role of displaying facial emotional cues in a competitive situation. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 60, 421–429.

Adriano, T., & Arriaga, P. (2016). Exaustão emocional e reconhecimento de emoções na face e voz em médicos de medicina geral [Emotional exhaustion and emotion recognition on the face and voice in general medicine physicians]. Psicologia, Saúde & Doenças, 17(1), 97-104.


2019. Contágio Emocional e Deteção de Autenticidade em Vocalizações Não Verbais: Estudo Comportamental e Psicofisiológico [Emotional Contagion and Authenticity Detection in Non-verbal Vocalizations: A Behavioral and Psychophysiological Study]. Student: Ana Rita Pires, Master in Science on Emotions, ISCTE-IUL.  Supervisor: César Lima; Co-supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga.

2015. Exaustão Emocional e Reconhecimento de Emoções na Face e Voz em Médicos de Medicina Geral e Familiar. [Emotional Exhaustion and Recognition of Emotions in the Face and Voice in Family Physicians]. Student: Teresa Miguel Fitas Adriano. Master in Psychology of Emotions, ISCTE-IUL. Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga.

2015. Reconhecimento de Emoções na face e voz em jovens institucionalizados: O papel da competência emocional, sensibilidade à rejeição e vinculação, [Recognition of emotions in the face and voice in institutionalized youth: The role of emotional competence, sensitivity to rejection and attachment.] Student: Carolina Isabel Horta Martins dos Santos, Master in Community Psychology and Child Protection, ISCTE-IUL. Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga.

2011. Não há duas faces iguais: Estudo da relação entre variáveis individuais, memória e perceção de faces, Rute Alexandra Caeiro Barrambana. Master in Psychology of Emotions, ISCTE-IUL.  Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga.

2008. Identification of emotional facial expressions as a function of anxiety by Ana Renata Mota. Master in Psychology, Counseling and Psychotherapy, ULHT. Supervisor: Patrícia Arriaga.

bottom of page