Understanding Guest Emotions in Hospitality

Decoding Emotions: Theories, Signals and The Power of Prosody

Decoding Emotions: Theories, Signals and The Power of Prosody
Article update
November 8, 2023
Table of Contents

Emotions form the core of our everyday interactions, influencing our experiences and perceptions in various settings. One such setting is the hospitality sector, where understanding and expressing emotions play a significant role in shaping guest satisfaction. This blog post explores the nature of emotions and how the Viqal System helps understand them within the hospitality industry, with a special focus on the prosody of speech.

Emotions expression in humans

Classical studies suggest that humans have similar ways of expressing emotions. In today's globalized world, these tendencies are reinforced, making it easy to convey cultural nuances. This is where the Viqal System comes in handy by exploring the common way that we humans express emotions driven by social, biological and cultural aspects. Moreover, it takes into account various factors such as the environment (e.g. a bar, casual setting, or fine dining restaurant), age, and group dynamics, to analyse emotional states within recent moments. Additionally, the system can compare a particular venue with itself or similar ones, as each environment style has a fingerprint in terms of guest profile.

There are several emotion theories that attempt to explain the nature of emotions and their underlying mechanisms. The dimensional model is one of the most widely accepted theories in psychology, which posits that emotions are best understood as existing along a continuum of two main dimensions: valence and arousal. Valence refers to the degree of pleasantness or unpleasantness of an emotion, while arousal refers to the intensity of the emotion. Other emotion theories include the categorical model, which proposes that there are discrete and universal emotions that are distinguishable from one another, such as anger, fear, and happiness. Plutchik's model suggests that there are eight primary emotions that are arranged in a wheel-like structure, while the Pana and Vector Models consider a wide range of psychological factors that contribute to the formation and experience of emotions. Overall, while each theory provides different insights into the nature of emotions, the dimensional model has received widespread support due to its ability to capture the complexity and variability of emotional experiences.

Basic common signals of emotions in hospitality

In the hospitality sector, some common emotions are predominant. Normally guests experience and express Pleasure, Joy/Happiness, Boredom, Disapointment, and a mix of disgust, annoyed which we refer to in this text as soft-anger. In many cases emotions are around neutral and, in a few cases, loud-anger is expressed like furious. All these emotions are correlated with satisfaction which is also driven by expectations. Viqal combines emotional theories with Satisfaction specifically for the hospitality domain, making use of arousal and valence concepts shown in Fig. 1.

                                                                                                                                                         Fig. 1. Dimensional Circle of Emotions

Arousal: Arousal is a component of emotion that refers to the level of physiological activation or energy associated with an emotion. In other words, it is the degree of excitement or alertness a person experiences when they feel a particular emotion. For example, the emotion of fear is associated with a high level of arousal, while the emotion of sadness is associated with a low level of arousal. Anger also can be expressed with high arousal as well as Happiness. At the same time, Anger can be expressed in medium arousal when it is contained. That is a typical use case observed in the hospitality sector when guests are contradicted. Due to social pressure, they tend to regulate their anger softening their expression. That means that soft-anger in most cases can mix with disappointment or even boredom in the medium-low range of arousal, in any case, both are always signals of unsatisfaction.

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In terms of voice, arousal can be expressed through various acoustic features. For instance, when a person experiences high arousal emotions, such as excitement or anger, their voice tends to become louder, faster, and more intense. On the other hand, when a person experiences low arousal emotions, such as sadness or boredom, their voice tends to become quieter, slower, and less intense. Additionally, other voice features such as pitch, tone, and intonation can also reflect changes in arousal levels. For example, a high-pitched voice may indicate excitement or anxiety, while a monotone voice may indicate low arousal or boredom. Overall, changes in arousal can be reflected in a range of vocal characteristics, which can provide important cues to the emotional state of the speaker.

Valence: Valence is another component of emotion that refers to the positive or negative quality of an emotional experience. In other words, it is the degree to which an emotion feels pleasant or unpleasant. For example, the emotions of happiness and love are typically associated with positive valence, while the emotions of anger and sadness are typically associated with negative valence.

In terms of voice, valence can also be expressed through various acoustic features. For instance, when a person experiences positive valence emotions, their voice tends to be more melodious, expressive, and rhythmic. On the other hand, when a person experiences negative valence emotions, their voice tends to be more monotonic, flat, and lacking in expressiveness. Additionally, other voice features such as pitch, tone, and intonation can also reflect changes in valence levels. For example, a higher-pitched and faster voice may indicate positive valence, while a lower-pitched and slower voice may indicate negative valence.

Overall, changes in valence can be indicated by a variety of vocal characteristics, which can offer significant clues about the speaker's emotional state. For example, a person may feel very comfortable expressing positive emotions such as pleasure or happiness, which are located on the right side of the valence spectrum. In high-end dining establishments, we may observe more expressions of pleasure than happiness. Age can also play a role in the types of emotions expressed. The elderly tend to express their satisfaction more often as pleasure than as exuberant happiness, while young people tend to exhibit a mixture of happiness and pleasure. Plus, in the hospitality industry context, the Neutral emotional category is often associated with satisfaction.

Incorporating Prosody of Speech to Understand Emotions

In terms of voice, both arousal and valence can be expressed through various acoustic features known as the prosody of speech. Prosody refers to the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech, which can provide important cues about a speaker's emotional state. For instance, when a person experiences high arousal emotions, their voice tends to become louder, faster, and more intense. On the other hand, when a person experiences low arousal emotions, their voice tends to become quieter, slower, and less intense. Similarly, positive valence emotions often lead to more melodious, expressive, and rhythmic speech, while negative valence emotions result in more monotonic, flat, and less expressive speech.

The Viqal System harnesses the power of prosody analysis to better understand guests' emotions in the hospitality sector. By tuning into these vocal cues and understanding their emotional implications, hospitality providers can better meet and exceed their guests' expectations with a passive, guest’s effortless system that doesn’t cross the boundaries of privacy.

Conclusion

The understanding and expression of emotions play an essential role in understanding guests’ feelings and managing their expectations within the hospitality sector. The Viqal System, leveraging psychological theories of emotion and prosody of speech, offers valuable insights into guest experiences, promoting improved service. By tuning into vocal cues and understanding their emotional implications, hospitality providers can better meet and exceed their guests' expectations with a passive, guest’s effortless system that doesn’t cross the boundaries of privacy.

References

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Formolo, D., & Bosse, T. (2015). Towards interactive agents that infer emotions from voice and context information. In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (pp. 929-937). International Foundation for Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems.

Barrett, L. F. (2017). The theory of constructed emotion: an active inference account of interoception and categorization. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 12(1), 1-23.

Lindquist, K. A., Satpute, A. B., & Gendron, M. (2015). Does language do more than communicate emotion? Current directions in psychological science, 24(2), 99-108.

Scherer, K. R. (2016). What are emotions? And how can they be measured? Social science information, 55(4), 440-467.

Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2008). International affective picture system (IAPS): Affective ratings of pictures and instruction manual. Technical report A-8.

Russell, J. A. (2003). Core affect and the psychological construction of emotion. Psychological review, 110(1), 145-172.

Ekman, P. (1992). An argument for basic emotions. Cognition & emotion, 6(3-4), 169-200.

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