Facial Expressions; Introduction Paper

Facial Expressions; Introduction Paper

Introduction: Facial expressions are being brought on to the public eye more and more due to media exposure (as psychology is entering public domain interest, this is even more particularly found in facial expressions reading) Authors like Malcolm Gladwell that have wrote for the prestigious journal “The new Yorker” state that some people have an uncanny ability to spot liars or border lining mind reading (such as the title indicates “The naked face: Can you read people’s thoughts just by looking at them? Or even television shows such as “Lie to Me” that go out to make face reading as an infallible way of knowing what people think. With this paper I purpose in clearing how one could use facial expressions, and how we, in quality of professionals, should be aware of confirmation biases and/or cultural ones, while keeping in mind the possible best way to apply such knowledge. I will also provide a little historical background to the whole ordeal and of the historical significance in this matter, and try to access the possible future applications. Facial expressions:

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The subject of facial expressions, either in regards for veracity and reliability, or being learnt or innate, is thought to be only recent (due to media attention and/or entertainment. ) Though in fact it’s a long debate amongst the scientific community, dating as far back to Charles Darwin, specifically in a book called “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” in which it ‘s stated that facial expressions are a learnt behaviour: “The inheritance of most of our expressive actions explains the fact that those born blind display them, as I hear from the Rev.

R. H. Blair, equally well with those gifted with eyesight. We can thus also understand the fact that the young and the old of widely different races, both with man and animals, express the same state of mind by the same movements. ” The exhibition of spontaneous facial expression in blind people indicate that yes, facial expressions are indeed inherent; Not only existing in the human race but also in other species, it can be said that it is of an ontogenetic origin.

Along side Darwin Matsumoto has also observed this event in a more controlled situation; in this study, the authors compared the expressions of congenitally and noncongenitally blind athletes in the 2004 Paralympic Games with each other, and as a control group he also compared the results produced by sighted athletes in the 2004 Olympic Games. The authors also examined how expressions change from one context to another (either the athletes were in the first position or the second).

The studies result supports the theory that there were no differences between congenitally blind, noncongenitally blind, and sighted athletes, either on the level of individual facial actions or in the level of facial emotion configurations. (Matsumoto, 2009) One interesting data bit was that the blind athletes did produce more overall facial activity (though these were isolated to head and eye movements and not facial musculature) though it was advanced in the study that this might have been as a result of an attempt by blind athletes to allocate oneself, orientation wise or even maximizing the audio information received.

Another thing the authors observed was that there was no cultural difference in expression. “These findings provide compelling evidence that the production of spontaneous facial expressions of emotion is not dependent on observational learning” (Matsumoto, 2009). This study of spontaneous expressions of emotions in blind individuals provided support to existing theories while also assisting scientists in understanding the basic processes concerning the nature of facial expression.

Now, emotional facial expressions are not an infallible way of predicting subject’s emotions, case in point, studies have proven that there’s some difference on how subjects from western and eastern groups analyze images of “negative” emotions, specifically as disgust or fear (Jack, 2009). Now this study not only aimed to differenciate how some of emotions we perceive are not as clear as others, but it was also their goal to discredit the entire theory behind facial expressions.

Particularly of their focus was how the “eastern groups would rather persistently fixate the eye region, while the westerners would distribute the focus their fixation evenly across the face. ” Even though previous works all ready existed on the matter, specifically by authors such as Ekman and Matsumoto where it was considered to exist sufficient cross-cultural consistency in the relative differences among photos. (Matsumoto D. &. , 1989).

The main critique was that there wasn’t enough focus on why there was difference between the groups, as the authors pointed out ”It was shown that by persistently fixating the eyes, Eastern observers sample ambiguous information” (Jack, 2009) and by consequence, significant confusion would be sampled. The study proposes that the universality of human facial expressions of emotion is in fact not universal, since the recognition of certain emotions is not well understood by some cultures.

Though this study does careen off trying to discredit facial expressions as a whole, it does make a point that certain types of facial expressions are harder to identify, namely fear and disgust. (One could argue that the exposure to these types of expressions is rare in this day and age could play a part in this study.

Also it could be argued that the individuals used in the study weren’t sufficient for such a broad generalization such has the title provides “facial expressions are not universal” only 13 individuals were used from each group, either eastern or western). Though it is recommended there should be lenient approach in regards of the usage of such displays, (considering clinical or profiling applications), and also in a scientific approach we should avoid characterization under negative or positive niches (e. . sadness is a negative emotion and so is disgust, etc) Even though it is indeed easy to classify them as such, in its applications it could help personal involved in its applications to categorize them, since negative facial expressions could create a bias. Though, there’s clearly a set of “basic” facial expressions, better known by “Anger, fear, sadness, enjoyment, disgust and surprise” (Ekman, 1992).

This set of basic emotions are regarded as such because based on 2 arguments which state there is a universality to facial expressions: It is indeed well known that prior to the knowledge of facial expressions of emotions being innate, one must consider also a species-constant wide social-learning that is not based on culture (Allport, 1924) And for the second argument, where it’s implied that emotions have evolved from fundamental life-tasks where innate factors account for common characteristics (Oatley, 1987).

Regarding culture wide facial expressions, Ekman conducted a study involving literate cultures and preliterate cultures, the purpose of this being, to address which and if any facial expressions of emotion are universal, further extending the knowledge that it’s not only literate cultures who share this characteristic (due to mass media exposure of presentations of facial expressions, western civilization is well accustomed to facial expressions of emotions). Based on previous work, Ekman collected data from New Guinea, the procedure he used involved telling subjects a story, and consequently showing them a set of three faces.

Afterwards, they would ask the individuals which of the faces would be best suited to the story. The results support the hypothesis advanced by Ekman, that indeed it’s not only a culturally wide phenomenon, but also universal, since there was an association between particular facial muscular patterns and discrete emotions. (Ekman P. &. , 1971) Such displays of facial expressions may be dependent on context, for example, it’s well known that when we’re exposed to fear it makes us feel threatened (Darwin, 1872) .

But as mentioned earlier, this isn’t an 100% proof of predicting states of mind, studies have demonstrated that even though the facial expression is associated with immediate threat, more context is required than fear for example; It was observed that whenever subjects perceived anger an activation of a wider region of the brain, comprising the anterior temporal lobe, the premotor cortex and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, where in contrast fear elicited mostly the amygdale and temporal cortices. This meaning, that fear has a more primal brain activation comparatively speaking to anger (the temporal lobe is known to analyze semantics).

These results support that the confrontation with threat, from exposure to anger as compared to fear signals, requires additional contextual information before an individual is able to adjust his behaviour accordingly (Pichon, 2009). Given our primal backgrounds, if one was the target of rage, it could possibly be due to a social interaction (and therefore it might have needed better context on the situation) and wherein by comparison, the expression of fear could be used to alert others. After considering the nature of spontaneous facial expressions and the pitfalls of said expressions, there’s the possible usage for this type of knowledge.

How one would go about using the facial expressions of emotions, and subsequently their recognition of the muscles implied in any given expression (and subsequent the emotional state it’s correlated with) in a professional approach other then only theoretical? A possible application for facial expressions is not even in the field of psychology, considering that interaction with machines in this day and age is slowly transforming itself into a big part of our lives, and such advances in computer sciences are now approaching the level of human and robot interaction.

Computer scientists are now delving into the field of psychology to understand better how non verbal communication helps humans to understand each other (and subsequently non verbal communication as well) The context of certain messages which could be interpreted as dubious or having double meaning without the presence of certain type of pronunciation or non-verbal information is a big part of our communication.

This information either non-verbal communication (posture, hand signalling, etc) obviously includes facial expressions, robots are all ready able to value the appropriate distance between themselves and/or humans to better fit the encounters nature, or even expressing their own facial expressions, such as fear, happiness or sadness. “…

Finally, returning to first principles, this paper sought to argue that since it is well supported that non-verbal communication is an important mode of human interaction, it will also be a useful component of interaction between humans and humanoid robots, and that behavioral overlays will be an adequate and scalable method of facilitating this in the long term. ” (Brooks, 2007)

Other efforts to develop this interaction involve algorithms that can process naturally occurring human affective behaviour, have recently emerged this is due to the fact that previous programs were only able to recognize deliberate type of facial expressions (programmers would force a smile in order to trigger a recognition by the software, but with this new technology e’re now able to analyze natural occurring expressions of emotion); “facial AU (facial units) are a relatively objective description of facial signals and can be mapped to the emotion categories based on a high-level mapping such as EMFACS and FACSAID or to any other set of high-order interpretation categories, including complex affective states like depression or pain. ” (Zeng, 2009). This type of technology has various possible applications that range from psychology (and various branches of), linguistics, neurosciences.

Programmers also aided psychologists in developing a tool (METT and SETT) that trains personal to better recognize facial expressions, for psychotherapists this may in the future be a huge area of interest in the knowledge one holds to better understand their patients, since has it’s been previously stated, there’s more to communication then the actual message transmitted, and better context can provide to be essential. Normally this is addressed as emotional intelligence, which can of course be trained, either in professional areas or in a more personal level.

Addressing also the matter of facial expressions and computers comes into light the subject of micro-expressions, which are very brief displays of facial expressions, so brief it can last only 1/50 of a second (Ekman P. F. , 1969), this brief expositions of facial expressions create strain patterns in individual regions of the face which are used to identify subtle changes, subsequently facilitating the detection of said micro-expressions. (Shreve, 2009) Which in interrogation could provide to be very useful piece of technology, either to access if an individual is deceiving or what intentions is the individual harbouring?

It was even purposed by Ekman that this technology could be used to train actors to further develop their abilities in acting, specifically how could they convey an emotion by correctly portraying the facial expression that is correlated with said emotion (Ekman P. F. , 1969) As before mentioned some biases are dependent on how well we use this skills, a theory has arose that depending on the type of facial expressions we’re exposed we might judge how trustworthy this person is (Engello D.

A. , 2010) the results of this study offer evidence that the evaluation of an individual relies on the same neural mechanisms that are involved in perception of emotional expressions, namely the expressions of anger results in higher evaluations of trustworthiness, whereas adaptation to expressions of happiness results in lower evaluations of trustworthiness. It was also found that it’s principally the expressions anger and happiness that affect this judgment.

When individuals are exposed to a novel face they extract a vast amount of information within a very brief contact. Much of this information is in regards to race or gender, but otherwise there’s also an inference of affective states from emotional expressions Trait evaluation and expression overgeneralization. However, sometimes the information is used to make dubious inferences regarding an individual’s enduring traits, either by confirmation biases, or based upon cultural interference.

This phenomenon was also noted in traits such as anxiety, in this study, subjects which had previously been screened for either high or low propensity to anxiety or sensitivity to threat (Behavior Inhibition Scale and Social Phobia Scale), then they were shown for a brief period time either expressions of happiness or fear (in fact this was so fast subjects when later asked were not aware that they were exposed to such displays) and later on they were asked to judge affectively how they perceived the photo of the person they saw (after the prime exposure of either fear or happiness, another photo of a surprised person). Paller, 2008) It was found that unconsciously perceived affective information influences our social judgments in individuals by altering very early perceptual analyses, and that this influence also correlated with how much a person is affected or sensitive to threat. Subsequently one can state that perception may be subject to a variety of influences that govern social preferences in the absence of concomitant awareness of such influences.

In sum, not only do professionals have to be aware how facial expressions emotions can affect them by automatically judging people (due to a biological imperative) they would also have to be aware how well do they perceive threat or sensitive they are towards the type of facial expressions their exposed too. For example, in a real life example of these situations, while though impressions are formed in a brief amount of time; they have shown to have a significant impact. Political election outcomes (Ballew and Todorov 2007) and sentencing in criminal trials (Blair et al 2004) can be predicted by valuations of faces along trait dimensions. Finally it was also found that not only facial expressions are good indicators of emotional states, they can actually alter them, not only changing how a person felt, but going as far in changing a person’s heart rate or skin temperature. (Ekman p. ;. , 1983) Though they used professional actors and thus cannot be correctly inferred if a person with no training in performing arts can also create the same results (as actors excel in faking facial expressions).

Conclusion: Programs such as SETT, METT, or the more recent METT2, allow for individuals to train their skills in facial expression detection, as for example in regards to a clinical application, one can read the patients intention in regards to the future, such as the example of Mary and the micro-expression of despair she exposed to the therapist when asked what were her plans for the near future. (Gladwell, 2002) The possibilities in human interaction are to say the least, vast.

Either trying to predict how a person feels, or what they could possibly be thinking, one must all ways pay attention on the biases of Observer/Actor and also cultural or sensitivity this type of exposures. On a personal note, at the risk of sounding pompous, I would like to say that I’ve rather enjoyed writing this article and I’m very interested in this matter, either in future considerations for training in a more practical use of behavioural science, or even in a theoretical approach and continue my academic progression within this field. No bibliography lulz


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