Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Reading what the mind thinks from how the eye sees.

Expressive eye widening (as in fear) and eye narrowing (as in disgust) are associated with opposing optical consequences and serve opposing perceptual functions. Lee and Anderson suggest that the opposing effects of eye widening and narrowing on the expresser’s visual perception have been socially co-opted to denote opposing mental states of sensitivity and discrimination, respectively, such that opposing complex mental states may originate from this simple perceptual opposition. Their abstract:
Human eyes convey a remarkable variety of complex social and emotional information. However, it is unknown which physical eye features convey mental states and how that came about. In the current experiments, we tested the hypothesis that the receiver’s perception of mental states is grounded in expressive eye appearance that serves an optical function for the sender. Specifically, opposing features of eye widening versus eye narrowing that regulate sensitivity versus discrimination not only conveyed their associated basic emotions (e.g., fear vs. disgust, respectively) but also conveyed opposing clusters of complex mental states that communicate sensitivity versus discrimination (e.g., awe vs. suspicion). This sensitivity-discrimination dimension accounted for the majority of variance in perceived mental states (61.7%). Further, these eye features remained diagnostic of these complex mental states even in the context of competing information from the lower face. These results demonstrate that how humans read complex mental states may be derived from a basic optical principle of how people see.

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