Can you Spot the Microexpression?

We teach our teens to stay out of danger, but what about when they see someone else in danger? Would your child know what to do if they witnessed what looks like a teen boy trying to take an inappropriate picture of a teen girl?

Can you spot the microexpression that occurs around 5:20?

We Can Look More Trustworthy, But Not More Competent


Image courtesy of Jonathan Freeman and Eric Hehman.

We can alter our facial features in ways that make us look more trustworthy, but don’t have the same ability to appear more competent, a team of New York University psychology researchers has found.

The study, which appears in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, a SAGE journal, points to both the limits and potential we have in visually representing ourselves–from dating and career-networking sites to social media posts.

“Our findings show that facial cues conveying trustworthiness are malleable while facial cues conveying competence and ability are significantly less so,” explains Jonathan Freeman, an assistant professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and the study’s senior author. “The results suggest you can influence to an extent how trustworthy others perceive you to be in a facial photo, but perceptions of your competence or ability are considerably less able to be changed.”

This distinction is due to the fact that judgments of trustworthiness are based on the face’s dynamic musculature that can be slightly altered, with a neutral face resembling a happy expression likely to be seen as trustworthy and a neutral face resembling an angry expression likely to be seen as untrustworthy–even when faces aren’t overtly smiling or angered. But perceptions of ability are drawn from a face’s skeletal structure, which cannot be changed.

The study, whose other authors included Eric Hehman, an NYU post-doctoral researcher, and Jessica Flake, a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut, employed four experiments in which female and male subjects examined both photos and computer-generated images of adult males.

In the first, subjects looked at five distinct photos of 10 adult males of different ethnicities. Here, subjects’ perceptions of trustworthiness of those pictured varied significantly, with happier-looking faces seen as more trustworthy and angrier-looking faces seen as more untrustworthy. However, the subjects’ perceptions of ability, or competence, remained static–judgments were the same no matter which photo of the individual was being judged.

A second experiment replicated the first, but here, subjects evaluated 40 computer-generated faces that slowly evolved from “slightly happy” to “slightly angry,” resulting in 20 different neutral instances of each individual face that slightly resembled a happy or angry expression. As with the first experiment, the subjects’ perceptions of trustworthiness paralleled the emotion of the faces–the slightly happier the face appeared, the more likely he was seen to be trustworthy and vice versa for faces appearing slightly angrier. However, once again, perceptions of ability remained unchanged.

In the third experiment, the researchers implemented a real-world scenario. Here, subjects were shown an array of computer-generated faces and were asked one of two questions: which face they would choose to be their financial advisor (trustworthiness) and which they thought would be most likely to win a weightlifting competition (ability). Under this condition, the subjects were significantly more likely to choose as their financial advisor the faces resembling more positive, or happy, expressions. By contrast, emotional resemblance made no difference in subjects’ selection of successful weightlifters; rather, they were more likely to choose faces with a particular form: those with a comparatively wider facial structure, which prior studies have associated with physical ability and testosterone.

In the fourth experiment, the researchers used a “reverse correlation” technique to uncover how subjects visually represent a trustworthy or competent face and how they visually represent the face of a trusted financial advisor or competent weightlifting champion. This technique allowed the researchers to determine which of all possible facial cues drive these distinct perceptions without specifying any cues in advance.

Here, resemblance to happy and angry expressions conveyed trustworthiness and was more prevalent in the faces of an imagined financial advisor while wider facial structure conveyed ability and was more prevalent in the faces of an imagined weightlifting champion.

These results confirmed the findings of the previous three experiments, further cementing the researchers’ conclusion that perceptions of trustworthiness are malleable while those for competence or ability are immutable.

Apes Giggle Like Humans

Facial Signs of Imminent Aggression

Dangerous DemeanorHumintell Director, Dr. David Matsumoto and lead Research Scientist Dr. Hyisung Hwang have new research that can aid government agents and law enforcement officers in identifying the signs of imminent aggression or violence.

When elicited, emotions prime behaviors initiating unique, organized, and coordinated physiological signatures and mental structures. The faces displayed from these emotions are immediate, unconscious, involuntary, and transient reactions that occur as a result of an appraisal of an event that has implications for the welfare of the organism and potentially require immediate response. This research, published in the journal of Threat Assessment and Management, delineates faces that are associated with an imminent attack.

In four studies, Drs. Matsumoto and Hwang examined the possibility that certain facial expressions are reliably associated with acts of immediate, subsequent violent behavior. They posited that facial expressions of emotion, specifically variants of anger, offer a potential marker for such signs as acts of violent behavior because emotions are rapid information processing systems that aid individuals in making decisions and engaging in action with minimal conscious awareness. They also delved into the question of whether imminent aggressive facial expressions are similar across cultures.

The researchers noted that emotions can be expressed in full-face prototypes, such as those depicted in the Pictures of Facial Affect (Ekman & Friesen, 1976) or the Japanese and Caucasian Facial Expressions of Emotion stimulus sets (Matsumoto & Ekman, 1988). However, emotions can also be displayed very subtly, with muscles innervated only slightly or intensely with muscles innervated at maximum strength. Emotions can also be displayed in only parts of the face (aka partial expressions; see Ekman & Friesen, 1978; Matsumoto & Hwang, 2013).

Much research has distinguished these two types of aggression, the former also known as proactive, instrumental, predatory, or cold aggression, the latter also known as reactive, affective, emotional, hostile, or hot aggression (Dodge, 1991; Fontaine, 2007; Meloy, 2006; Siegel & Victoroff, 2009). Although the distinction is neither simple nor universally accepted (e.g.,Bushman & Anderson, 2001), in broad terms it is a useful heuristic and reasonable starting point for this research.

The researchers conducted four studies that provide evidence for the existence of specific facial expressions of emotion, and more specifically variants of angry expressions, that may precede imminent assault as well as a cross-cultural link between specific facial expressions of emotion and subsequent, immediate behavior. The same expressions were identified by three samples of law enforcement officers in two different cultures and by two samples of university students with and without experience with physical assault.

Because Drs. Matsumoto and Hwang have been able to isolate exactly which faces are associated with an impending attack through their research, they can teach individuals to identify them.

Through this research they have developed a training tool, Dangerous Demeanor Detector or D3™, which helps individuals identify others who are on the verge of dangerous actions.

Chimps Chuckle, Smile Much Like Humans Do: Photos

2015-06-22_12-20-33By Jennifer Viegas for Discovery News

Laughs and smiles in chimps turn out to be far more human-like than previously thought and they date to at least 5 million years ago, suggests a new study on chimpanzee facial expressions and vocalizations.

Laughter is not 100 percent identical between the two primates, but people who hear a chuckling chimp usually have little trouble figuring out what the sound generally means.

Chimps go “h-h-h,” while humans sound more like “ha-ha-ha” or “he-he-he,” said Marina Davila Ross, a senior lecturer in the University of Portsmouth’s Department of Psychology and lead author of the study in PLOS ONE.

Then there is the flexibility of the sounds and related expressions.

“Chimpanzees, like humans, can produce their facial expressions free from their vocalizations,” Ross explained. “This ability is important for humans. For instance, it allows us to add a smile while talking or laughing, and we can also produce smiles silently. Until now, we did not know that non-human primates also have this ability.”

It’s even possible that the skills first emerged in the common ancestor of chimps and humans.

Read more on this fascinating topics and see more pictures here!

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