Since 1872, the work of Charles Darwin, it was thought that the men showed their emotions through six major categories of facial expressions. The concept has been shaken by scientists according to which culture is also involved. And this is not entirely without consequences …
The story begins in 1872. Charles Darwin published a book entitled The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, in which he defends the idea that the human species has six basic emotional states: happy, surprise, fear, disgust, anger, and sad. According to his research and that of his contemporaries, facial expressions representing these emotions were universal and interpreted the same way by all men.
The story begins in 1872. Charles Darwin published a book entitled The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, in which he defends the idea that the human species has six basic emotional states: joy, surprise, fear, disgust, anger and sadness. According to his research and that of his contemporaries, facial expressions representing these emotions were universal and interpreted the same way by all men.
Based on the theory of evolution by natural selection that it had exposed thirteen years ago, he deduced that if it were a question of culture, the manifestation of emotions have varied considerably in different parts of the world since the common ancestor of all humans, as do species change and differ. This was to be innate.
For nearly a century and a half, various studies have confirmed the work of British naturalist. But some scientists, like Rachael Jack, University of Glasgow, wonder if this research have gone far enough in the precision and bias if certain protocols could not distort the data. In wanting to check it, they realized that Darwin was not quite right: the culture would also react!
Emotions: a history of nature and culture
To do this, 30 volunteers were recruited. Half of them were Westerners, the second half was composed of recent Asian immigrants and not yet imbued with the local culture. Their mission was to identify which of the six major categories of emotions of 4800 different animated faces, shaped by computer.
Software tended to represent more closely the events of the various expressions by contracting the facial muscles virtually, raising or lowering the corners of the mouth, widening or narrowing the eyes, and so on. Some faces are very expressive, subjects were allowed to say they could not decode the emotional state of the person. The intensity of emotion was also scored on a scale of 1 to 5.
The results, presented in PNAS, show several trends. On the one hand, Westerners agree very well for storing emotions faces in major categories and assess the level of intensity. In contrast, Asians have a different perception, except for the smile. For them, expressions marking the disgust, fear, surprise and anger were difficult to classify correctly. On the other hand, the emotional intensity goes more by the activity of eyes for other traits that are more sensitive to Westerners.
Facial expressions, tests of intelligence and national security
The idea supported by Rachael Jack and his team is that each culture has its basic emotions, which vary from one region to another. Thus, Westerners have identified six major categories, but the Asians could have others, including notably the shame, pride or guilt.
You should always put these results, drawn from a dozen volunteers are supposed to represent all of their original companies. On the other hand, a culture itself consists of subcultures, each country, each region having its own peculiarities. This is also true in the Western world than in the Asian world. But at what level of detail should we stop?
Nevertheless, this study is of interest, such as economic health. Lisa Feldman-Barrett (Northeastern University, Boston), if this hypothesis of the universality of emotions is wrong, it is not without consequences. Because it reminds us, these tests are used in some countries to diagnose mental illness. The U.S. alone each year spend millions of dollars to train their security personnel to decode the emotions on the faces. A model that may need to be reviewed soon …