Monday, June 06, 2005

Recognizing emotions

Here is some new psychology research:
Men's famous lack of emotional intelligence may have a scientific basis, according to British psychologists.

An experiment based on facial recognition at St Andrews University has concluded that a man's brain cannot pick up the facial expressions showing how his partner feels - supporting the long-held view that men are emotionally clueless.

To prove the theory, men and women were shown pictures of faces depicting a range of different feelings, from neutral to intense. The male subjects were substantially worse at spotting emotion and, as predicted, could pick up only sadness, surprise, fear, disgust and anger in the most obvious cases. ...

In the experiment, reported in the journal Cognitive Psychology this week, the researchers used pictures of actors to examine face processing in men and women aged 18 to 30. Each set of images range from zero to full- blooded emotion.
A flaw in this study is that the subjects were not detecting emotions like disgust, but rather the ability of an actor to fake disgust. It is not clear whether the men were worse at detecting emotion, or better at detecting lousy acting.
The findings make an interesting parallel with research into the abilities of people with autism - the majority of whom are male - which shows that they are weak at recognising even the most obvious clues in the human face. This has led some authorities to conclude that the condition can be described as an extreme form of maleness.
They could be weak at recognizing facial clues, or strong
at not being faked out by false clues.
Other research at the University of California has shown that men can improve on their recognition of facial emotions by learning to "mirror" what they see in others. They found that when people copied the facial expression they see in a partner, they are able to feel what the other person is feeling - a technique also recommended by experts in body language.

Some research shows that women do this more naturally than men. Observational studies suggest that when women are in conversation they empathise more than men, including adopting similar facial expressions.

Practitioners of the mirror technique are said to have included gothic horror novelist Edgar Allan Poe, although it is not known how this affected his prose.
This is too weird. It sounds to me as if the researchers cannot distinguish genuine emotion from fake emotion.

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