When one speaks in front of the public


When you speak in front of an audience, how do you know what the emotional state of most of the audience is?

This question has been studied in psychology and a curious phenomenon has been discovered that we will explain in detail in this article. We will know the effect of the amplification of the emotion of the crowd and what are its repercussions.

What is the crowd thrill amplification effect?

When a person addresses a crowd and tries to discern which emotion is predominant among all of them, a psychological phenomenon known as the crowd emotion amplification effect can occur. It basically consists of taking as a reference the most visibly extreme emotions , since they are the ones that attract the attention of the receiver more quickly, and extrapolating that information to all the members of the audience.

Keep in mind that these mental processes are automatic and take place in fractions of a second. Therefore, the observing person has not had time to look at each and every one of the faces and therefore to interpret the emotional states of all of them, but has made a quick sweep through some of them, and their Attention has been captured by the most prominent, that is, those who showed a more intense emotional expression, either in one direction or another.

Therefore, the crowd emotion amplification effect would act as a shortcut, a mechanism that would economize mental flow to be able to draw a conclusion directly about the general emotionality of a group without having to perform a deep analysis that would require a specific attention to each person and a comparison between all of them, which would mean a much slower and more expensive process at the processing level.

How does this mechanism work?

It is one thing to know what the crowd thrill amplification effect is, and quite another to understand how it works. Researchers have come up with different alternatives, and one of them has to do with a mental process called set coding. The underlying process consists of the subjects making an immediate summary of all the visual information they perceive, including that relating to the emotionality of others.

Another possibility is the one that we anticipated in the previous point, and it would consist of extrapolating the general situation through the most outstanding information (the most marked emotions, in this case, since we are talking about this type of stimulus). According to this theory, if we were before an audience in which several of the people were visibly angry while the rest maintained a neutral emotional state, we could infer that, in general, the group would be angry.

Obviously, this mechanism involves a bias , and in that simple example it is clearly appreciated. The key is the following: that a stimulus is the most striking does not mean that it is the predominant in a set, but that to our attention does not seem to matter, since our perceptual processes will automatically focus on those elements that stand out from the rest alone because of their apparent magnitude, not because they are the predominant trend in the total set.

The importance of expressiveness

As social beings that we are, we constantly carry out interactions between people, and in all of them the information we receive through facial expressions and non-verbal language is essential to attribute an emotional state to our interlocutor, which will modulate continuously and without us giving ourselves Note the type of interaction that is taking place. It is such an automatic process that we are not aware of its existence , but it is vital to carry out socially accepted interactions.

Possibly, the effect of amplifying the emotion of the crowd is a consequence derived from the importance of expressions, since it is to be assumed that we will pay more attention to those faces that are expressing a more intense emotion , in a way that automatically makes our eyes jump. alarms and we can adapt our method of interaction accordingly, either to calm the interlocutor or to share their joy, to give some examples of situations that could occur regularly.

In this sense, it is also interesting to see that humans tend to focus more on negative emotional states, so within the range of intense expressions, it will be those that denote a negative or hostile emotionality that attract our attention more likely than the rest. , although these are also intense but with a more positive orientation. In that case, between people showing joy and others showing anger, we will most likely turn our gaze to the latter.

A study of the amplification effect of crowd emotion

An interesting investigation has recently been carried out on the effect of amplification of the emotion of the crowd by Goldenberg and co, in which it is a matter of observing this phenomenon in laboratory conditions and thus being able to study its true scope. Next we will see in detail each part of this study.


In the previous phase of the experiment, three hypotheses were established that would later have to be tested in the following phases. The first one is that the estimate of the average observed emotion would be higher than it really is. The second hypothesis would state that the amplification effect of crowd emotion would become more and more intense as more people were added to the observed audience.

Finally, the third hypothesis would refer to the fact that the studied effect would be significantly more powerful in cases in which the most prominent emotions were negative instead of positive. Once the three hypotheses had been established, the experimental phase was carried out.

Experimental phase

Three consecutive studies were carried out to test the stated hypotheses . In the first, 50 volunteers participated, each of whom observed on a screen a group of between 1 and 12 faces, some neutral and others with expressions of anger or happiness, for just one second, after which they had to indicate which emotion perceived in general. It was repeated over 150 trials, in which the number and expression of the faces varied randomly to present the most diverse situations.

The second experiment was the same as the first, with the difference that another variable was manipulated: the exposure time . In this way, the participants saw the groups of faces for 1 second, 1.4 seconds or 1.8 seconds, repeating each condition during 50 trials, for which they would make up (in a random order) a total of 150, the same as in the first experiment.

We come to the third and final experiment. The conditions were again similar to those of the first, but this time the number of 12 faces was maintained in all the trials, and another variable was studied: the eye movement of each individual, to check where they fixed their gaze on each one of them. the essays.


Once the three experiments were completed, all the data obtained were analyzed in order to reach the conclusions that would allow the hypotheses to be verified or falsified. The first study allowed us to observe that, indeed, the participants observed a more intense emotionality in the faces than it usually was. In addition, they also showed that the more faces on the screen, the stronger this effect was, which corroborated the thesis of the second hypothesis .

The second test did nothing but strengthen these statements, since its results were also in line with what was proposed by the second hypothesis and also the third, since it was found that negative emotions, indeed, captured more participants' attention than positive ones . However, the exposure time variable showed that this phenomenon diluted with longer times and therefore produced a weaker crowd emotion amplification effect in negative emotions and long time.

The amplification effect observed in the third study was somewhat less than in the other two. It is possible that the addition of the eye-tracking devices could have altered the way the participants made their observations naturally. It was observed that the difference between the average emotion perceived in the faces and the real one was greater the longer they fixed their gaze on the faces with more intense emotions and less on those that presented a neutral emotion.

The conclusion of this study, therefore, is that its three hypotheses were correct, and it opens the way to an interesting methodology with which to continue studying the amplification effect of crowd emotion.

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