Victory Or Defeat? Emotions Aren’t All In The Face
November 29, 2012
… that sense of certainty disappeared, he found, when he took images of tennis winners and losers, and erased everything but the face. When he showed just those isolated faces to people, they couldn’t tell if something positive or negative was going on.
Then he showed people images of tennis players with the faces erased. People had to judge winners from losers based solely on the rest of the body. “And when people saw the body alone, they easily knew if this was a positive or negative emotion,”
This is counterintuitive, he says, because people usually assume that if they are getting an emotional message, it must come from the facial expression.
In fact, when Aviezer shows people full images of tennis players — the faces plus the body — and asks them to describe how they know what the player is feeling, people usually describe the face. They claim to see tell-tale clues in the player’s eyes or mouth. “When in fact it’s an illusion,” says Aviezer. “They have this false idea of information in the face when really it’s coming from the body.”
These studies challenge long-held assumptions about the importance of facial expressions, she says.
“When you and I talk to each other and we look at each other, we’re really looking at each other’s faces. That’s where our attention is. And so the assumption has been that that’s where all the information is, too,” says Barrett. “But these studies show very clearly that that’s not the case.”
These findings add to a growing body of evidence that when we’re trying to figure out another person’s emotional state, we rely on a lot more than just the face.