Facial Expressions; Introduction Paper

Topics: Emotion, Paul Ekman, Facial expression Pages: 8 (2852 words) Published: November 11, 2011

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:

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...
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