Scientists discover how emotions in facial expressions are understood

on 02 June 2018
Seeing is not alway believable

It is not uncommon for someone to say, when discussing their anxiety, "for no reason I became anxious!" But there will always be a reason, it just might not be one you are aware of . . . . . . .

What we focus on is what we view, the brain sees everything else!

Anxiety is an anticipatory form of fear, in that it is not so much about what is happening but rather what we think is or will happen. While this article focuses on how our visual field responds to facial expressions of emotion, it is worth pointing out that the same potential for detecting emotional stimuli exists in all of our sensory/emotional centres. While each sense will have its own perception of any stimulus, it is when the brain processes these in the various convergence/divergence zones that it has the potential to gather strength. When it comes to emotional responses, shoot first, ask questions later, is the favoured methodology!

For example, viewing our senses as emotional journalists, sight writes what it sees, sound what it hears, touch what it feels etc. and, simplistically speaking, the convergence zones act as the editor, tasked with pulling together the total sensory experience to make a unified story. So taking the view that the editor now passes a copy of the collective article to each sense, now sight knows what sound heard, touch felt etc. but does not necessarily have a full appreciation of the total emotional experienced. So, at any time in the future, be it minutes or years, there are two, three, or more, of the stimuli present, even in a totally unrelated environment to the original experience, the emotion of the memory can be triggered; hence the apparent absence of a reason! 

That the senses can detect stimuli outside of conscious awareness (subliminally) is old news but it is always good news when science can prove how it occurs, even if only from a theoretical perspective! 

Experientially I have found that having a better understanding of how emotions occur can put us ahead of the curve when it comes to managing conditions like anxiety, stress, anger etc. However, seemingly, knowledge alone may not be enough to overcome the emotional response; perhaps it's too consciously logical and rational. Hypnotherapy allows us to rationalise it from an illogical perspective. As an example, take smoking, all of the clients I have seen, who want to quit, are fully aware of the dangers and risks of smoking but they cannot quit. However, when hypnotised, they are subconsciously able to unravel this illogical logic! Everything on the outside is exactly the same as it was before the hypnosis but inside; that's a totally different story; that's hypnosis!

My objective here is to help people understand how and why we become illogically trapped into emotional experiences that may actually not be happening! If you want to know more about how Hypnotherapy why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation?

For more information on the Free Consultation - Go Here Or, to book your Free Consultation today, you can do so here

The Research:  New research by academics at the University of East Anglia (UEA) reveals how well fearful facial expressions are perceived in peripheral vision.

Although human vision has the highest resolution when we look directly at something, we see a much wider view of the visual world in our lower resolution peripheral vision. In fact, detecting signals of potential danger in our periphery -- especially moving ones -- is something our visual system is well adapted for.

The research explored how accurate human participants are at two key processing stages of emotional face perception: detection, which refers to being able to tell there is an emotion present, and recognition, which refers to knowing which emotion, such as fear or happiness, is present.

While previous brain imaging research has implicated a special, more primitive, brain pathway in processing fear -- an important emotion as it is a signal of potential danger nearby -- other studies have shown that fear is not a well-recognised emotion.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, this new study by researchers in UEA's School of Psychology for the first time investigated how recognition and detection of six basic emotions -- happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger and surprise -- changes when viewed centrally and up to 30 degrees in peripheral vision.

Lead author Dr Fraser Smith said: "A key finding of our study is that while fear is indeed not a well-recognised emotion in peripheral or central vision, unlike happiness or surprise, for instance, it is a very well detected emotion even in our visual periphery. This suggests that these special brain mechanisms may be more concerned with emotion detection than recognition per se."

Dr Smith also said the findings were important given that difficulty in perceiving facial expressions is associated with conditions such as autism, psychosis, and schizophrenia.

"Being able to read facial expressions well is important in our daily lives in order to have successful social relationships," he said.

"We show that it is not just being able to recognise expressions that is important but being able to detect them in the first place. This gives us a different picture of which underlying systems may be impaired, which has potential implications for the treatment of conditions where a perception of emotions is affected."

Co-author Dr Stephanie Rossit said: "Our work shows the importance of considering how different tasks may lead to different patterns of results with the perception of emotion. It also shows the importance of considering how well facial expressions are recognised outside of central vision."

The study involved 14 participants who were shown images of faces expressing six emotions and one neutral expression. For the recognition task, they had to decide which emotion was displayed, with the faces randomly presented centrally and to the left and right by 15 or 30 degrees. In the detection task, the participants had to decide whether the face displayed an emotion.

As well as fear being a better detected than recognised emotion, the results show that happiness and surprise are both recognised and detected well in peripheral vision, whereas others such as anger and sadness are not.

Story Source:

Materials provided by the University of East AngliaNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Fraser W. Smith, Stephanie Rossit. Identifying and detecting facial expressions of emotion in peripheral visionPLOS ONE, 2018; 13 (5): e0197160 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0197160