Faking Emotions – Dr. Matsumoto’s Interview with PopSci

Photo Courtesy of imagerymajestic

Emotions are a huge part of human nature and social communication. Many people use the common social smile in every day interactions.  Although the social smile is easy for most people to flash on and off the face at will, there are factors that distinguish it from a true Duchenne Smile.

PopSci delves into the discussion that distressed emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and sometimes surprise are more difficult to fake on demand.

Why is this ?

Years of research from various sources purport that these expressions cause tension throughout the face as one part of the brain tries to control an expression caused by another part of the brain.  These expressions also rely on antagonistic muscle groups, pulling parts of the face in opposing directions.

According to the PoPSci article, sadness is a good example of this.  Sadness often involves both an expression of sadness and the desire to control that expression. “The tug of war over your face creates the quivering lip,” says Dr. Mark Frank, professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Buffalo.

Dr. David Matsumoto, Humintell’s director, comments on the facial muscles involved in the emotion of fear, “Fear involves more muscles in the top of the face than other emotions.  We have much less neural connection to the forehead, the eyebrows and the upper eyelids than to the lower muscles in the face, so it becomes hard for us to voluntarily control them.

Dr. Hillel Aviezer, professor of Psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem goes on to point out that facial expressions are different from reactions.

– A reaction like a knee jerk is in response to sensory stimuli and activates motor responses, bypassing the brain. In contrast, body cues and facial expressions demonstrating emotion are brain based, meaning they can be controlled to a certain extent, even if we aren’t very good at it.

He goes on to point out, “Recreating the expression without feeling the emotion can be tricky.  Many people are poor posers of expressions; they simply don’t know what to move where.

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