"She looked at me crazy": Escalation of conflict through telegraphed emotion

Sonia D. Worcel, Stephanie A. Shields, Carole A. Paterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This exploratory study investigated a feature of adolescent social interaction that can quickly initiate or escalate conflict: telegraphed emotion (a specific emotion conveyed through a subset of its expressive components or through a brief, extreme display of the complete expression; Shields & Maybury, manuscript in preparation). In the form of "the look," telegraphed emotion conveys intensely felt, yet controlled, affect. Using focus groups, teenage females were asked to define the look and to discuss its use, such as who employs it, when it is used, and the consequence of using the look. They reported that the look has different meanings depending on whether it is directed at a friend or a nonfriend, and whether it is used by females or males. With friends, the purpose is to communicate anger, sadness, or disgust; with nonfriends, it indicates disgust or anger, but within a framework of asserting power or status. The look often results in escalation of conflict, especially a verbal or physical fight. These findings are discussed, and the implications for investigating and preventing adolescent interpersonal conflict are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-697
Number of pages10
Issue number136
StatePublished - Dec 1999

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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