Bright Lights & Emotion

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Health has enlightened us on new research that suggests bright lights, including the sun, are not as comforting and positively associated as many people might think.

So, can bright lights make you more emotional?

That’s the question researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Toronto, Scarborough set out to answer in a recent study. The study, titled “Incandescent affect: Turning on the hot emotional system with bright light”, originally appeared in the journal for Consumer Psychology, and draws a link between feelings and lighting.

It has long been thought that bright light, especially sunshine, has a positive effect on mood. Consistent exposure to light helps us regulate our circadian rhythms, which can make us happier and healthier overall. It stands to reason that data would suggest that bright light would lead to an increase in positive emotion.  However, this new study had unexpected results.

Instead of finding correlation between light and positive moods, the new research shows that bright light can increase the intensity of ALL emotions, including negative ones. Participant’s reactions, under different lighting conditions, were rated to a number of stimuli ranging from the spiciness of certain foods to perceived attractiveness and aggression of other people.  Researchers, Alison Jing Xu and Aparna Labroo, found that bright lights increased the severity of the participants’ visceral responses to the stimuli. They reported, we show that ambient brightness makes people feel warmer, which increases the intensity of their affective response, including sensation seeking from spicy-hot foods, perception of aggression and sexiness (“hotness”) in others, and generating more extreme affective reactions toward positive and negative words and drinks.“  This was found across all six studies that were conducted.

So bright light tends to make people react more passionately, while dim lights can lead to people having subdued reactions. Why is this the case? According to the findings, “these effects arise because light underlies perception of heat, and perception of heat can trigger the hot emotional system.” This connection between our body’s perception of warmth and feelings of passion makes sense; our language is full of phrases like “hot-headed” and “hot and bothered” that associate heat with feelings of intense emotion.

How can we use this information to our benefit? Turning down the light, Xu and Labroo write, effortless and unassuming as it may seem, can reduce emotionality in everyday decisions, most of which take place under bright light. Keeping lights dim might help prevent us from making snap judgments and allow us to make more rational choices.

Do you plan to turn down the lights the next time you have a big decision to make? Let us know in the comments!

The Truth Lies in Our Eyes ?


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A new device is being held to detect deception by accurately reading eye behavior.  Broadway comments on this non-invasive lie detection method called EyeDetect.

Scientists at Utah based company Conversus, which invented the EyeDetect and the computerized polygraph, claim that their device can detect whether a person is being honest or is lying through subtle changes in the behavior of the human eye due to increased cognitive load.

Will this device replace the current polygraph or surpass it and be admitted into courts of law ?

Probably not anytime soon.  EyeDetect monitors the eye behavior of individuals using a high-speed eye tracker to measure subtle changes and then combines the measures in a mathematically optimal manner to detect deception.  The polygraph measures a person’s emotional response when lying, whereas EyeDetect evaluates changes in cognitive load associated with deception.

The scientists purport that the two technologies provide partially independent sources of diagnostic information about deception and may be used in combination to great advantage in some applications. However, there is no additional research to support that veracity can be determined solely from a person’s eyes.  In the company’s validation trial this “ocular motor deception test” had an 85% accuracy rate.

If this device can be proven, with further research, to be effective and accurate then perhaps the EyeDetect can be put into the category of a deception detection tool.  However, as of now, it seems to be more of a screening device than a bonafide  lie detector.  As with any tool or technique for evaluating truthfulness (i.e. the polygraph, or reading nonverbal tells) there is no one real sign that someone is being dishonest.  These are screening techniques/devices that have the potential to analyze individuals such as employees for hot spots that might lead to unveiling dishonesty such as previous issues with theft or fraud.

We deal with a lot of sensitive information where the potential for risk is very high, said Vilash Poovala, co-founder and CTO of PayClip. developer of Clip a card reader that enables users in Mexico to accept credit and debit card payments through their smartphones and tablets.We need to make sure the people we hire can be trusted. Technology like EyeDetect that can effectively screen potential employees for previous issues with theft or fraud is long overdue.

Converus is focusing its initial efforts in demonstrating EyeDetect’s technological ability  as a pre-employment and periodic screening tool to help effectively manage risk and ensure workplace integrity.

Do You Think The Key to Unlocking The Truth Lies in our Eyes?

Emotional Intelligence

Are You Emotionally Intelligent ?

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After watching the video are you ready to test your skills ? 

If you want to take an Emotional Intelligence quiz from Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life click here.

Your Car May Soon Be Able to Tell When You Have Road Rage


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The science fiction novels that many of us read as children are turning into science fact with our fast-paced technologically advancing world.   A team of research scientists from the Swiss company EPFL  has developed a system that allows cars to detect their driver’s emotional states.  According to the company’s News Mediacom page, their aim is to lesson the effects of irritation and anger aka road rage on highways and city streets. Snap decisions made in hazy moments of anger can irrevocably alter the course of many people’s lives.

To help prevent instances of road rage, the EPFL adapted a facial detection device for use in a car, using an infrared camera placed behind the steering wheel. The camera’s sole responsibility is to pick up signs of a driver’s irritation. It is not clear on what actions if any would be taken short article did nto mention what would happen o the car if road rage is detected  A key issue with the development of this device is that everyone expresses irritation in different ways, and this wide array of expressions proves too complex for the device to detect reliably.

Hua Gao and Anil Yüce, the lead researchers of this EPFL project, chose to focus on only two emotions, anger and disgust, in order to simplify the project at this stage.  Hua Gao maintains that the ultimate goal of this project is to continue to update the device so that its detection abilities become more sophisticated. The ideal device would consist of “a self-taught human-machine interface, or a more advanced facial monitoring algorithm.”

This project is being coupled with the development of other automatic detector devices, such as a fatigue monitor that measures the percentage of eyelid closure as well as developing other tools that will be able to detect additional states such as distraction and  have vocal recognition technology as well.   These devices will prove useful in allowing driving to be a less negative and even less dangerous experience for drivers.

Would You Want These Facial Recognition Tools In Your Car?

Frozen Emotions


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A new study, commented on by The New York Times, lends even more evidence to the theory that regular botox injections can help treat depression.

Last year, we blogged about a study by Dr. Eric Finzi that suggested that onabotulinumtoxinA (commonly referred to as “Botox”) injected into the corrugator and procerus muscles (the frown muscles between the eyebrows) could alleviate symptoms of depression by inhibiting the face’s ability to display negative emotion such as a frown.

In his previous study, Dr. Finzi cited the “facial feedback hypothesis” first proposed by Charles Darwin and William James, which states that facial expressions of emotion can have a distinct influence on mood. Dr. Finzi took this idea one step further, and proposed a new model of “emotional proprioception”, wherein the brain continuously monitors the relative valence of facial expressions and that mood responds accordingly. If true, this could mean that unconscious facial expressions greatly affect how someone feels; by changing someone’s at-rest expression, mood can be drastically affected.

Dr Finzi first started researching the effects of botox on mood in 2006. His original report, published by  The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, was anecdotal and lacked sufficient sample size or control methods. Other researchers followed up on his research in 2011 with a study that confirmed his original findings.

Dr. Finzi’s most recent study, completed with the help of psychiatrist Dr. Normal Rosenthal, is the most comprehensive conducted on the subject, taking place over the course of 6 weeks and involving 69 participants.  You might think that patients would easily be able to tell whether they got the placebo or Botox.  However, it wasn’t so obvious; only 50% of the subjects getting Botox guessed correctly.  More important, knowing which treatment was received had no significant effect on treatment response.)

Interestingly, the study was solely funded by the Chevy Chase Cosmetic Center, a dermatology center specializing in cosmetic treatments, which Dr. Finzi owns. While Dr. Finzi’s results are fascinating, more confirmation by unbiased sources will likely be necessary before such treatments will be approved by the FDA.

Could this new study lead to an increase of the popularity of botox?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

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