How is this woman feeling? This was a question posed to university students in a psychological study. By jumbling up several photographs – putting the same open-mouthed face on top of different bodies – many participants couldn’t spot her true emotion: fear. It’s clear to see that she’s afraid in the picture on the left. But mismatched, or incongruent, bodies and faces – such as an afraid face with a downhearted body posture (middle), or an aggressive posture (right) – were often judged incorrectly: her fear was disguised as sadness or anger. The study suggests that context is very important when judging a person’s emotional state – and that emotional perception can be as much about what our bodies are ‘saying’ as our faces.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.