Sell to Me: Looking at the Effects of Facial Expressions on Persuasion

Date of Completion

January 2012


Business Administration, Marketing|Psychology, Social|Speech Communication




One hundred and ten (110) real-estate agents from six offices, 58 females and 52 males, were tested with regard to their emotional communication skills (both receiving and sending) and for levels of emotional intelligence. Participants were filmed in the slide-viewing technique (SVT), which involved displaying slides of pleasant, unpleasant, unusual, and neutral people while a digital video camera recorded the subjects' spontaneous reactions. Participants rated their emotional responses to each slide on scales of Happy, Sad, Afraid, Angry, Surprised, and Pleasant. To measure receiving scores, participants engaged in the Communication of Affect Receiving Test (CARAT). Each person viewed three-second videos of undergraduates responding to various slides in the SVT, and was asked to indicate which type of slide had been viewed. Participants were also given the online version of the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT), a 141-item, ability-based emotional intelligence test. Undergraduate students at a large New England university viewed the videotaped expressions of the participants' SVT, rating the slide viewed and the sender's emotional response. The participants also had three clients rate their persuasive qualities on an online survey. The participants' brokers from each office provided sales figures, and a ranking of performances was calculated from total sales, contracts, and listings. ^ The results indicated that sending scores did not predict emotional intelligence but that receiving scores did. Receiving was also the only predictor of persuasion; ET scores did not predict sales nor did EI predict persuasion. Emotional communication overall was a strong predictor of sales ranking. Whereas females are generally considered be better at overall emotional communication, in this study females had only higher receiving scores than men, while the men had higher sending scores. The results suggest that spontaneous facial responses and one's ability to perceive those responses are valuable skills that contribute to the art of selling. ^