Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Body Shock
12 October 2013

Body Shock

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

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