Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Body language, not facial expressions, broadcasts what's happening to us

Date:
November 29, 2012
Source:
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Summary:
If you think that you can judge by examining someone's facial expressions if he has just hit the jackpot in the lottery or lost everything in the stock market -- think again. Researchers have discovered that -- despite what leading theoretical models and conventional wisdom might indicate -- it just doesn't work that way.

Expressions numbered 1,4,6 show tennis player's face on losing a point; expressions numbered 2,3,5 show a player after winning a point). Tests show that those looking at facial expressions alone cannot determine what the true emotion is.
Credit: Reuters: Used with permission

If you think that you can judge by examining someone's facial expressions if he has just hit the jackpot in the lottery or lost everything in the stock market -- think again. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at New York University and Princeton University have discovered that -- despite what leading theoretical models and conventional wisdom might indicate -- it just doesn't work that way.

Rather, they found that body language provides a better cue in trying to judge whether an observed subject has undergone strong positive or negative experiences.

In a study published this week in the journal Science, the researchers present data showing that viewers in test groups were baffled when shown photographs of people who were undergoing real-life, highly intense positive and negative experiences. When the viewers were asked to judge the emotional valences of the faces they were shown (that is, the positivity or negativity of the faces), their guesses fell within the realm of chance.

The study was led by Dr. Hillel Aviezer of the Psychology Department of the Hebrew University, together with Dr. Yaacov Trope of New York University and Dr. Alexander Todorov of Princeton University.

In setting out to test the perception of highly intense faces, the researchers presented test groups with photos of dozens of highly intense facial expressions in a variety of real-life emotional situations. For example, in one study they compared emotional expressions of professional tennis players winning or losing a point. These pictures are ideal because the stakes in such games are extremely high from an economic and prestige perspective.

To pinpoint how people recognize such images, Aviezer and his colleagues showed different versions of the pictures to three groups of participants: 1) the full picture with the face and body; 2) the body with the face removed; and 3) the face with the body removed. Remarkably, participants could easily tell apart the losers from winners when they rated the full picture or the body alone, but they were at chance level when rating the face alone.

Ironically, the participants who viewed the full image (face and body) were convinced that it was the face that revealed the emotional impact, not the body. The authors named this effect "illusory valence," reflecting the fact that participants said they saw clear valence (that is, either positive or negative emotion) in what was objectively a non-diagnostic face.

In an additional study, Aviezer and his collaborators asked viewers to examine a more broad range of real-life intense faces. These included intense positive situations, such as joy (seeing one's house after a lavish makeover), pleasure (experiencing an orgasm), and victory (winning a critical tennis point), as well as negative situations, such as grief (reacting at a funeral), pain (undergoing a nipple/naval piercing), and defeat (losing a critical tennis point).

Again, viewers were unable to tell apart the faces occurring in positive vs. negative situations. To further demonstrate how ambiguous these intense faces are, the researchers "planted" faces on bodies expressing positive or negative emotion. Sure enough, the emotional valence of the same face on different bodies was determined by the body, flipping from positive to negative depending on the body with which they appeared.

"These results show that when emotions become extremely intense, the difference between positive and negative facial expression blurs," says Aviezer. "The findings, challenge classic behavioral models in neuroscience, social psychology and economics, in which the distinct poles of positive and negative valence do not converge."

Aviezer adds: "From a practical-clinical perspective, the results may help researchers understand how body/face expressions interact during emotional situations. For example, individuals with autism may fail to recognize facial expressions, but perhaps if trained to process important body cues, their performance may significantly improve."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. Aviezer, Y. Trope, A. Todorov. Body Cues, Not Facial Expressions, Discriminate Between Intense Positive and Negative Emotions. Science, 2012; 338 (6111): 1225 DOI: 10.1126/science.1224313

Cite This Page:

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Body language, not facial expressions, broadcasts what's happening to us." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129143314.htm>.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (2012, November 29). Body language, not facial expressions, broadcasts what's happening to us. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129143314.htm
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "Body language, not facial expressions, broadcasts what's happening to us." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121129143314.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins