Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Microexpressions and Memorization

I recently spent some time studying microexpressions. The theory is that most humans, including some of the best liars and manipulators, briefly signal their true emotions via expressions that last only fractions of second. These microexpressions are involuntary.

My interest in this was triggered by a special on the human brain I saw on a cable channel. Supposedly, and I wonder about this, Secret Service agents scored the best as human lie detectors, while psychiatrists and other mental health professionals did no better than random college freshmen. (http://www.mettonline.com/) Paul Ekman has written several texts on this, as well has hosting a BBC special on the human face.

Here is the "autism" connection:

If I can study and memorize body language, with at least some success, why not teach microexpressions to individuals with high-functioning autism?

After a few days, I was scoring over 50% on simple microexpression tests. These are simple tests, of course, using videos of faces and asking the viewer to select from a range of emotions. The ability to recognize emotions visually is worth some study and review, at least in my experience.

I might never be "normal" in terms of evaluating non-verbal cues, but memorization seems to be working pretty well. In fact, I wonder if the fact I am analyzing and memorizing might not actually make me a better "reader" of human emotions over time.

If nothing else, the notion of teaching facial expressions deserves some thought.