Clinician’s Digest II


Reading Emotions

March/April 2013


When it comes to the craft of conversation, most of us believe that some face-to-face interaction is the key component of emotional communication. For social engagement, we connect with our social network over Facebook or use our various iDevices for a little FaceTime with relatives. But new research is questioning how we actually process and interpret the emotional reactions of others. The findings might make us take an about-face turn on conventional wisdom regarding facial expressions and emotions.

For decades, researchers have relied on the “Ekman faces” for studying how we process emotional expressions. In the 1970s, psychologist Paul Ekman created a set of black and white photographic images of actors portraying six “universal emotions”: happiness, sadness, anger, disgust, fear, and surprise. Although the stimuli have varied over time (to incorporate actors of varying ethnicity, for example) and the universal emotions have expanded (to include emotions such as pride, guilt, and shame), the fundamental reliance on facial expressions as a primary indicator of emotional state has remained. Now it appears that, when it comes to intense real-world emotional experiences—such as the joy and relief of seeing your first child born or the agony and disappointment of a crushing defeat—our faces may not be as revealing as once believed.

To examine the role of facial expressions and body language in how we interpret the intense emotional displays of others,…

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1 Comment

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:53:08 PM | posted by Kay Trotter
Thanks for this article. As a clinical professional its important to understand our clients entire person; their facial expressions, body language and their "energy" which is a fluid and flexible system, that determines the quality, type of interactions and clarity of communication we have with others. It is exciting to watch how science continues to connect more and more dots that govern our personal interactions

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