Emotion as Performance Feedback: (Mis)Inferring Work Quality From Evaluators’ Affect



Evaluators often express emotion in evaluative situations (e.g., performance reviews, job interviews) for reasons both related and unrelated to the evaluation itself. This paper explores how evaluators' emotional expressions shape performers' metaperceptions, self-assessments, and decision-making. In a survey of 370 matched pairs of evaluators and performers, the more hopeful, happy, and proud, and the less disappointed, performers perceived their evaluators to be, the more positive their metaperceptions. Further, evaluators and performers did not agree about the emotions the evaluator expressed. In five experiments, different emotional expressions by an evaluator elicited different perceptions of performance quality by performers. In general, performers perceived their work more positively when their evaluators expressed positive emotions than negative emotions. However, discrete emotional expressions did communicate additional information over and above positive or negative valence. Further, performers' inferences influenced their decisions about whether to accept a job offer, whether to include a website link in a press release, whether to include a website in a personal portfolio, and whether to ask a client for a referral. Results from the six studies suggest that evaluators' emotional expressions provide interpersonal performance feedback that shapes performers' metaperceptions, self-assessments, and decision-making.