Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Paul Ekman

A one year baby looks you straight in the eyes. Is your gesture toward him of love or made out of fear?

Your face constantly displays your inner emotions. Your face instantly expresses what you feel at every moment. And vice versa: You make a face and you feel what this expression is meant to convey in emotions.

Mankind face is activated by 42 action muscles. Activating two muscles generate 300 expressions, activating 3 muscles produce 4,000 expressions, and the combination of 5 muscles at a time generate 10,000 facial expressions.

Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen spent 7 years to develop a taxonomy for facial expressions. Apparently, about 3,000 expressions were judged to mean anything. These emotions were categorized in the Facial Action Coding System (FAC), which many researchers study to become expert mind-readers (about 500 are certified)

Computer animators use this coding system such as Pixar (Toy Story) and DreamWorks (Shrek).

Strong with so many meaningful expressions, it is possible to study shades and levels for every major emotions such as anger, happiness, stonewalling…

Ekman and Friesen would face one another for hours creating expressions by activating the appropriate action muscles. Many muscles are almost impossible to activate voluntarily, unless an electrode is used.  You need to feel a muscle in action and repeatedly in order to learn to activate it voluntarily, like wiggling your ears…

The researchers gave names to particular expressions such as “Peck’s Bad Boy,” Hand caught in cookie jar”, “Duping delight”, “Love-me Mommy”, “I’m a rascal”, “Cat ate the canary”… 

The Bill Clinton expression of  “hand caught in cookie jar, love me mommy” has these action muscles sequences: tug corners of lips down, raise chin, press lips together, and roll eyes…

The two researchers discovered that the facial expressions they activated generated the corresponding emotions. For example, if they displayed a sad face they felt sad. Actually very few are able to create a sad face sign. There is this genuine sign of a pleasure smile that it cannot be reproduced voluntarily (tightening the muscles that encircle the eyes).  This impossibility can unmasked the false friend according to Guillaume Duchenne (French 19th century neurologist)

The brain has two parts that store pictures. The sophisticated and most developed part (fusiform gyrus) saves and sorts out faces: You can recognize a familiar face forty years later (unless drastic plastic surgery deformed a characteristic feature?).  The other part is called the inferior temporal gyrus, which saves and sorts out pictures of products, and is far less sophisticated compared to the other part

It is thus possible to control the emotions you want to convey with practice, except the initial split-second face that your unconscious display for all to notice, before you step in and distort…

Can projection of emotions be controlled? The flickering emotion (fraction of a second) will be displayed no matter what, and your mind-reading power will catch these split-second expressions.  The experts will have to rewind their videos to discover the flash distorting your facial expression

Autistic people lack the fusiform gyrus brain and thus cannot retrieve but pictures of objects. They never look at you,at your face or care about your gestures: mankind is another object to them and cannot recognize emotions on people’s faces.  They have no mind-reading capabilities, and still they can be functional and rational…

Paraplegic people and deaf acquire a high level proficiency of reading minds by paying attention to facial expressions…

Note 1:  Article was inspired from a chapter in “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

Note 2: A few examples of action muscles coming into play to expressing emotions.

1. Happiness and joy: raise the cheek, pull up the corners of the lips… A pen clenched between teeth forces a smiling face. Pen between lips prevent a smiling sign.

2. Fear: raise inner brow, raise outer brow, brow lowering, stretch the lips, raise upper lid, part the lips, drop jaw…

3. Disgust: wrinkling the nose

4. Anguish and sadness: raise inner eyebrow, raise cheeks, lower corner of the lips

5. Anger: lower brows, raise upper eyelid, narrow eyelids, press lips together…Anger increases heart rate by12 beats, and hands get hot and it is difficult to disconnect from the system

6. Distress: one of the inner brows is raised




March 2023

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