Expression of Emotion
The Russian film director Lev Kuleshov and made his first film at the age of 19 and became a powerful figure in the Soviet film industry. He also made an astonishing psychological discovery.
He inter cut shots of Ivan Mozzhukhin, a Russian silent film star with three images - a bowl of soup, a child in an open coffin and a glamorous young woman reclining on a divan. People were impressed by Mozzhukhin's subtle acting showing hunger, grief and lust. But Mozzhukhin's acting wasn't so subtle as non-existent! The very same shot was used in each case. Showing the relatively impassive face with scenes laden with emotion causes people to impose their own interpretations on Mozzhukhin's emotional state. The Kuleshov effect is now widely used in cinema and is highly influential.
The background of a still photograph can dramatically change how a face is read emotionally.
Context turns out to be far more important than we imagined.
When you look at a photo of a women expressing an emotion you my be seeing anger and frustration depending upon how you interpret her expression.
However, if we change the context this can change. In the context of a crowd of supporters, she looks happy or even triumphant.
The general principle here is that your brain interprets each piece of perceptual input to make as much sense as possible in light of the wider context.
Sometimes it's not that easy to accurately pick up on the emotional state of another person through their facial expressions alone.
An interesting optical illusion that demonstrates this where the faces appear to swap emotions so that the neutral
face appears angry and the angry face appears neutral.
What is the emotional state of this person?
It's difficult to determine.
Some people have a particular syndrome. It's called Mobius syndrome. It's a rare genetic disorder and this means that they have a mask-like expression. This is due to palsies of the cranial nerves.
Also, people who've had too many Botox injections have a mask-like expression and they are constantly showing happiness.
In all of these examples, it's dangerous to make assumptions about a person's emotional state based purely
on what you see on their face. Other expressions of underlying emotion have to be reviewed.
There isn't a distinct pattern of emotion that can be mapped in the brain as they're not that distinct and they appear to vary from individual to individual. Not everyone smiles when they're happy or scowls when they're angry. They emerge from the physical properties of your body how your brain is wired through development and your culture and upbringing. They're not experienced and expressed universally.
It's recently been suggested that emotions are cultural. Cultural display rules dictate which emotions are displayed
and considered acceptable, and these guide how they're experienced.
Some languages have labels for emotions that are not labelled in other languages. For example, Tahitians don't have a word for sadness.
Does this mean that they don't experience this emotion? This is an interesting area of current debate and investigation.
The German word "schadenfreude" indicates joy at someone else's misfortune. It has no equivalent in English.
The skill around understanding emotions in others is to ask them. Ask them what they're feeling and what it means to them and to do this without prejudice or judgement.
The learning point from all of this is not to make snap judgements on the basis of limited information. Keep an open mind to look for more evidence that will support or contradict your initial interpretation.
Emotions contain a lot of information. A lot of it is hidden information, but a lot of it is practical information about yourself and about other people, and managing this information is essential for your well-being and for building relationships.
Identifying, assessing and expressing your emotions in the most appropriate ways actually builds and enhance your experiences. Acknowledging and facilitating the expression of your emotions will help in terms of building relationships, but it also helps in terms of empathising with other people.
Emotions play out in private and they play out in public to produce these feelings of well-being or they help to enhance your leadership capabilities or they produce flow - that focused, blissful expenditure of energy where you really enjoy doing what you're doing.
On the downside, emotions can actually result in distress or distraction or being completely emotionally overwhelmed.
Emotions are mental and physiological states associated with a wide range of feelings and thoughts and behaviours.
There isn't actually a taxonomy of emotions - there's not a series, there's not a palette of emotions that we can draw on.
Emotions are highly subjective. So, how I experience a particular situation will be completely different to the way in which you experience the same situation. You may go along to see a film and think it's the best thing that you've ever seen. I may go along to see the same film and find incredibly boring.
Emotions blend together. They're in continual flux. So, the emotions that you were feeling at the beginning of this lecture may be completely different from the emotions that you feeling at the end and your behaviour is a direct result of how you're feeling in your emotional state.
In order to understand emotions it's important to recognise in yourself what events and what situations are likely to trigger different emotions.
What is it that makes you happy?
What is it that makes you sad?
What is it that makes you angry? What is it that makes you fearful?
Know that these emotions can actually combine together to form complex blends of feelings and realise that emotions will progress over time and they can change from one to another.
Emotions are there to help. They provide information and they provide a way which you can express yourself.
Emotions actually provide a rich vocabulary for you to describe your feelings and blends of feelings, and by understanding this, and working with your feelings, and understanding them better, you're actually able to have a better understanding of how to respond to certain events.
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