Monday, February 08, 2010

Emotions and your FACE, Part 2

The six primary emotions of anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise may be a pretty simple way to boil down our emotions. We are much deeper than that and as we grow we learn to control these emotions in various ways. The first way is by controlling the intensity. If you watch a baby you will find an increase in the intensity of emotions for example from concern to anxiety to FEAR to terror. I look at a baby and I see concern in his eyes, as I get closer I can see anxiety as he quickly looks for mom, as I pick him up I begin to see FEAR on his face, and finally when I throw him into the air and catch him you will see genuine terror. (Now, being the observant person I am, I will try to stop at concern by inserting some joy - like candy behind the mom's back). We have intensities in these emotions.

Now look at the six emotions with their mild to extreme intensities and you will find 24 different facial expressions using those 6 as primaries. Look at the picture: Stern to indignation to ANGER to rage. Alert to wonder to SURPRISE and then to shock. All nuances and intensities of the six primaries.

As we get older we gain the nuance of these emotions and attempt to control them but as Dr. Ekman (Lie to me) and Scott McCloud (Making Comics, who drew these emotions) know we cannot really control our emotional facial expressions completely. It will come across as a "strange" look on our face or a insincere smile, etc. What happens is a crossing of these six primaries and when we do, we find even more emotional possibilities based on a combination of FEAR and JOY.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Emotions and your FACE, Part 1

One of my favorite shows currently is "Lie to Me" which is a show about a man who has devoted his life to the study of people's faces and what they can tell you. I have always prided myself on being able to read people's emotions and especially their eyes. There is science behind what scripture calls discernment.

The science of "Lie to Me" is based on the work of Paul Ekman. A real life psychologist who studies this thing. Hard science and hard to understand. I prefer a book by Scott McCloud called "Making Comics" where he does the same thing in comic form. To be able to draw good comics you must understand facial features. According to Scott there are only 6 real emotions, all others are combinations and variations of these six. It is kind of like the primary colors versus a variation of tone or combination of colors that make the difference. Here are his six primaries: Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, and Surprise.

These six emotions are the primary colors for all emotions that we as humans feel. It doesn't matter where you are from or how old you are. We ALL have these primary emotions.

Now, right now, you might be feelings a little disgust with the things I am saying but most of you don't believe it. You think there are FAR more expressions and emotions than these six. The simple answer is: you're right, there ARE, a LOT more than these six but these are the primary emotions. Each of these can be mixed or give more or less intensity to come up with all the emotions you use every day.

But here's the thing that hit me. Look at the list of emotions again. IF they are the primary emotions can they also be the "elementary" emotions? In other words, are these not what you see in babies who, throughout their growth, learn to control, color, and nuance to the point of masking the true emotion behind it.

When you "read" someone's emotions on their face, what you are doing is looking for the hints of these six primaries. Try to find other primary emotions and next time we will study the intensities of these six to find YOUR face.