7 Quick Takes – Are Faces Innate? (The Psychology Edition)

Another busy week, though I’m hoping it will calm down a little. What have I been up to? Uni work, mostly. Read on for Psychology in bulk. Catch up with Quick Takes at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

seven quick takes friday 2

~1~

If you’re interested in Psychology, I did a seminar presentation today for my Science of Emotion module, entitled Are Faces and the Emotions They Convey Innate? My conclusion, for simplicity and time-saving, was that we might have a critical period in the development of emotion processing neurology, in which the neural pathways develop—which can be influenced to be ‘abnormal’ by external factors like more frequent exposure to certain facial expression stimuli in the environment.

However, this topic is actually one in constant debate. Since, if you’d consider it, Darwin’s lesser-well-known (compared to On the Origin of Species) The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, psychologists have been interested in whether facial expressions of emotion are innate or learned. Or indeed a combination of the two.

~2~

A snippet of my notes to illustrate how difficult it is in science to give a straight conclusion. After all, there are so many possible confounding variables and human differences that one cannot possibly generalise.

reeb-sutherland

~3~

Reeb-Sutherland et al’s paper came to the conclusion that facial expressions of emotions are not innate, as their results showed differences in preference for seeing fearful faces in a continuum of Anger—Fear (where preference is seeing a fearful face sooner than the average) between Behaviourally-Inhibited adolescents with a history of anxiety. This means, more or less, that something about their past exposure and tendency for anxiety has ‘rewired’ their brain to be more aware of threat.

~4~

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 3.40.08 PMOn the other hand, studies like that of Gendron et al looked at how ‘basic’ emotions (a la Paul Ekman, 1984*) are prevalent across cultures, even in Patagonian tribes, who will not have had as much exposure to media and the stress Western culture can evoke (and therefore they may be less prone to anxiety and worry emotions). One might argue from results like these that facial expressions of emotion, at their simplest, are innately ‘tailored’ in the human mind already.

*The article I’ve linked is only a preliminary in discussion of Darwinian tradition of facial processing. It does, however, include reference to some important recent articles and papers in the research. If you’re interested in facial expression of emotion, I’d recommend Google scholar-ing Paul Ekman’s original work and its updates.

~5~

Of course, there are many other ways to express one’s emotion, especially for humans. Next week, for instance, we’ll be looking at expressing emotion through the body. However, you can see how much material and hypotheses there are to go on from just one three-hour seminar…

Yup, I have three-hour seminars this year. They don’t call Reading University research-intensive for nothing!

~6~

Amongst all this Psychology, as much as I love it, I hurry about and do have those stressful moments. I know I talk about the felt intangibility of God a lot, but it’s something that keeps me going; sometimes, when I’m close to giving up on a piece of work, I close my eyes and give consideration to what He might be saying by putting me in this particular place and position. Trust is a difficult thing, and it takes practise like that to carry on. Living in the Chapter House community group has especially helped this.

~7~

This issue is that I’ve still got loads to catch up on – including several reblogging that I was unable to do during the working week – and do before/for this evening, so I’ll leave it at that for today.

How has your week been? Been up to anything unusual? Tell me, what do you think of the question of expression innateness?

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