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Blind-sight is enough to pick emotions?

What if someone says that you don’t require to looking at faces consciously (of other person) pick emotions on them? It is really possible for us and if yes then exactly how? These are the two basic questions Prof. Dr. Beatrice D. Gelder (Renowned Cognitive Neuroscientist and Neurophysiologist) and her team has conducted an elaborate experiment at Tilburg University to find answers for. What they call this amazing (or “supernatural”) ability to pick emotions without clear visual clues is as ‘blind sight’. Really interesting!
Faces with emotional expressions on them
She conducted an experiment on numerous subjects (or persons) having or suffering from blind sight - a phenomenon in which visual cortex in one hemisphere of brain gets damaged due to stroke leading to deficiency of conscious visual perception or clue collection. The team found that subjects responded unconsciously when emotionally charged faces were shown to an eye of subjects suffering from the blind sight phenomenon.
Bodies expressing different emotions
Short clip on this experiment was broadcasted in an episode “Is there a Sixth Sense?” of a famous scientist documentary series called as “Through the wormhole”. Please view this clip thoroughly to understand what she and her team tried to reveal or unearth circuits or parts inside our brain that help us to decode emotional clues on faces and bodies of others without conscious or visual perception of stimulus.


[Prof. Dr. Beatrice D. Gelder currently works in Maastricht University, The Netherlands. She once had written me an email about this site, commenting as “Very Interesting”, when she was working in Tilburg University, The Netherlands. Know more about her on Wikipedia.]

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Turtle Effect: Body response under threat

We all remember our good old childhood days and especially cheerful play time with our family and friends. Out of many amusing and thrilling activates that each of us might have had, tossing in air and catching back in repetition done by elders was mixed with excitement and fear. Even though the vertical distance a child is tossed at isn’t unsafe but definitely frightening for it. Almost every child on this planet might have experienced the mixed feelings deep inside even though it couldn’t explain it into words. Still, that very mixed feeling thrills and amuses or most of us in our routine life.

We like to get scared but obviously in a controlled situation and we’re ready to pay for same too. In fact, whole multimillionaire amusement industry has spread its roots over the planet by scaring and thrilling us only. Now, this same industry is looking forward to scare and amuse us above surface of earth. I’m talking about space tourism or zero-gravity experience that a person other than astronauts could enjoy. I really don’t know the exact date I could (afford) fly in an outer space but I always wanted to take similar kind of experience on ground.

Recently, I got an opportunity to visit Adlabs Imagica - an amusement park which is located near Khopoli (Mumbai) and close to Yashwantrao Chavan Expressway. Coincidentally, my wife was with me to experience an enormous thrill of different rides and simulations. By taking three different roller coaster rides, I could test my courage and also feel the thrill deep inside my gut. Almost everybody was screaming and shouting till each ride coming to an end. Even after trying harder, we couldn’t stop ourselves by doing so because body was in total control of an unconscious mind.

While coming down from height quickly, moving faster on banked turns and getting rolled   in 360 degrees on steel rail; our bodies were getting hurled or tossed and pushed abruptly in almost every direction. Many of us must have felt mild, moderate or strong tingling sensation inside stomach especially while looking down at steep slope from very highest points but suddenly realizing that we cannot escape from moving seat going down on same path. Body’s quickest (within milliseconds) and natural response in this kind of situation is to protect itself from potential harm that might cause by falling down from above. Watch this video clip and experience what a rider might be feeling.


Even if we consciously know that we won’t fall off (of course, until protecting arrangement malfunctions) the seat, we tightly grip the straps, bars and railings to avoid falling. While going down deep from above or taking a dive, we unconsciously push our bodies towards the back of seat to minimize gravitational drag and retain center of gravity at its place as much as possible. Most astounding thing we can easily observe or realize is that most riders on roller coaster or inside any threatening simulators pull all movable parts of body inside and towards torso (an upper body).

(Courtesy: bodylanguageproject.com)
This phenomenon is called as ‘Turtle Effect’ because a turtle does same in face of danger. It pulls all movable body parts (legs, tail and neck) inside its shell to avoid potentials injuries to them and thus increase chances of survival. We clearly know that we don’t carry any natural or artificial shell or armor like a turtle all the time and also we walk on two feet only. Still, we protect our neck by raising both shoulder high as if they are about to touch ears. We clench our feasts and tug or keep our forearms close to our neck. We clasp our legs together, pull them towards abdomen, lock them at ankles and grip them tightly sometimes.

How this response might have evolved in us at first place? It has evolved in us the same way we’ve evolved into humans from creatures. Our remotest ancestors didn’t roam on two feet (limbs) but four. In fact, they used to roam and forage inside oceans only with help of fins before evolving into land roaming quadrupedal (four limbed/legged) amphibians. Let me make it clear here that our remotest ancestors weren’t fishes but they were having overall philological features almost similar to a fish - except the ability to breathe by nose.

Retreated Turtle
Vertebral and quadrupedal body structure i. e. ability to adopt different postures with the help of spine or backbone (vertebras connected in an elongated shape) and roam on limbs, ultimately led to development of ribcage - an astounding structure made up of bones to cover and protect different life supporting organs. Still, stomach remained unprotected because of its functions like storing food, digesting it and exerting wastage. Since stomach needs to expand and contract in cycles, any solid structure or protection can hinder its normal functions.

In face of any physical risk or an advance of a predator, only thing any vertebral and tetra-pedal creatures can do is to pull all moving body parts inside to provide protection to them and also to cover exposed stomach. Thus two great goals are met while defending most of the body and multiplying the chances of survival. This strategy was further inherited by all descending species that evolved to roam on land and fly in the sky and climb on trees. As we evolved from the greater apes, we still adopt same defense tactics that was evolved before millions of years ago.

If you get an opportunity to ride a roller coaster or seat inside a scary and body shaking simulator, try to keep all your movable body parts in perfectly normal position. You may not because of unconscious suggestions you might get from deep inside. Since we are not designed to fly and dive from tens and hundreds of feet like bird, our body tries to protect itself from falling on ground and getting hurt by either moving hands rapidly like a birds or getting itself pulled inside like a turtle.

(Special Thanks to Mr. Joe Navarro, Former FBI Special Agent and Pioneer of Nonverbal Communication, for coining term 'Turtle Effect' with respect to nonverbal behavior.)

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Couple in trouble?

When a man and a woman fall in love with each other it speaks loudly through their body language. Love doesn't remain hidden or suppressed for a long time and shows up in one or other form. People start talking about them and different stories are shared or gossiped. Eventually, we come to know that the couple has decided to live with each other. Knot is tied between both of them and they are officially declared as a married couple. Some couples may choose to stay in a short-term or uncommitted 'venture' but still they have to make some adjustments. Relationship between a man and woman is natural and wonderful but it is also filled with challenges and uncertainties.

Though
every romantic relation has a glorious and rosy beginning, not all stories progress ahead very pleasantly. Every couple experiences rough days, monotonousness or stagnation in their relationship but their mindset determines future of their relationship. Those who give each other enough time to develop healthy and positive outlook towards each other, survive through rough patches and keep flourishing in unimagined ways. However, not every person is same when it comes to managing impulses and guiding oneself into a right direction. When many things go beyond peaceful adjustability, a couple starts moving into a disappointing stage - separation.
"What exactly went wrong?"
In daily routine, both men and women often get busy with their tasks at hands in such a way that they could hardly pay attention at each other. Traditionally, it’s the woman who starts filling unsafe when enough attention is not paid at her and some fruitful conversation doesn’t take place between a husband and wife. Sometimes, one partner starts drifting away and taking less interest into an existing relationship. Many people, mostly men, get into a shock after coming to know that their partner is no longer enthusiastic in the relationship they both had set out for. Unlike flashy and telling courtship signs, a man and woman drift away from each other silently. Shouldn’t there be any signs or clues prior to separation?

Expression of Contempt
According to Prof. Dr. John Gottman - a psychologist well known for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, a telling sign for a couple on verge of separation is not anger and sadness but contempt and disgust. Unlike pair bonding facial expressions, gestures and maneuvers; contempt and disgust convey unconscious disliking or disrespectful attitude towards each other. One partner may not realize that the other is expressing contempt and/or disgust during regular interaction but identifying these alarming emotions on face (and body) can help in saving a troubled relationship. Moreover, contempt and/or disgust are expressed not only by couples in rocking relationship but also by any two persons irrespective of their genders.
Expression of Disgust

Contempt can be a result of suppressed anger and/or heightened social status and desirability level of one or both partners. It can be readily observed in today’s liberal environment that allows both partners to scale professional, social and economical heights along with many potential partners at their respective workplaces. On the other hand, disgust simply means - “I don’t want to stay by your smell”. It’s a state of utter dislike but not disagreement with the other person. Disgust is also related with the signature smell (pheromone) that body of one person generated and another person inhales unconsciously. Pheromones haves greater role to play in romantic lives.

More often these two expressions are given away by one or both partners during every single face to face interaction and also while discussing about partner with some other person; more there are chances of separation in future. Out of these two alarming expressions, women are more likely to express disgust and men are more likely to express contempt on their faces unconsciously. Women too can show contempt like men do.


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