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December 25, 2013

Blindsight is enough to pick emotions

While most of us take the acute visual awareness or ‘Conscious Vision’ for granted, there’re a few within us who can’t enjoy this privilege. They’ve perfectly normal eyes but they don’t have the same awareness of what is being seen at the moment. This unusual phenomenon is called as ‘Blindsight’ which is an unfortunate result of damage to Primary Visual Cortex (PVC), the rear/dorsal area of human brain which processes visual information gathered by eyes. However, this sight isn’t entirely ‘blind’ at all. Now, you mst be wondering - How it’s possible?

Actually, this so-called ‘Blindsight’ is much more watchful and judgmental than our conscious visual awareness or ‘Conscious Vision’. The persons suffering with blindsight subconsciously react to visual information being gathered by their eyes. They don’t consciously at all realize what is being seen but they unmistakably react to the incoming visuals by evaluating them subconsciously. They sense and react but they don’t realize what exactly they’ve seen. It’s as if they’ve an additional sense or 'Sixth Sense', apart from the five senses.

What if someone tells you that you don’t need to consciously look at the faces (of other persons) to pick emotions on them? Is it really possible for you and if yes then exactly HOW? Do only faces can express and convey different emotions? How to identify emotions if facial cues are not available? Is reading the mind possible only by looking at the rest of the body?

These are the few basic questions Prof. Dr. Beatrice D. Gelder (a 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 ‘blindsight’ (?). It's really interesting!

Faces with emotional expressions

She conducted an elaborate scientific experiment in a lab with a numerous individuals (or subjects) having or suffering from blind sight or blind vision which is a phenomenon in which visual cortex in one hemisphere of brain gets damaged due to stroke which ultimately leads to the deficiency of conscious visual perception or clue collection.

(Affective) Blindsight or Blind Vision is the residual visual ability in the patients who has suffered damage to their primary visual cortex (V1, striate cortex). They react reliably to the emotional degree of stimuli presented to their blind visual fields but they cannot consciously report presence and properties of the stimuli.

Bodies expressing different emotions

Her team found that the patients responded unconsciously by moving or twitching muscles of their own faces to mimic the same emotions when different emotionally charged faces were shown to the eye of patients suffering from the blind sight or blind vision phenomenon. Movements and twitches of their facial muscles were recorded with sensors.

This is a revolutionary discovery about our brain's ability to pick emotions in others. Her work was published by Scientific American journal. Also, a short clip on the entirely experiment was broadcasted in the episode “Is there a Sixth Sense?” of the famous scientist documentary series called as “Through the wormhole”.

Please kindly watch the below clip (link: 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 visual perception of them.

This so-called subconscious sight, secret sight, inner vision or 'Sixth Sense' works for normal persons too, including you. We quickly evaluate or judge emotional cues given by body language of others but we don’t consciously realize that we’ve already done it.

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

Related Articles:
1) Basic Emotional Expressions 2) Recognizing emotional expressions: Scientific viewpoints

December 15, 2013

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 most of us in our at special occasions. In fact, we crave to face such occasions, only to get rid of boredom.

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 the space tourism or zero-gravity experience that an individual other than astronauts could enjoy. I really don’t know the exact date I could (afford to) fly in the outer space but I always wanted to take similar kind of experience on the ground, if at at possible to me in my lifetime.

Recently, I got an opportunity to visit Adlabs Imagica which is an amusement park which is located near Khopoli (Mumbai, Maharashtra, India) 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 high above, moving faster on banked curves and getting rolled in 360 degrees on the steel rail; our bodies were getting hurled, tossed, thrown and pushed abruptly in almost every direction continuously.

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 reaction 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). It's an easily deteactable change in their overall body language.

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 in the 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.

Please let me make it clear here that our remotest ancestors weren’t fishes but they were having overall philological features which were almost similar to a fish i. e. except the ability to breathe by nose.

Retreated Turtle
Vertebral and quadrupedal body structure i. e. ability to adapt different postures with the help of spine or backbone (vertebra connected in an elongated shape) and roam on limbs, ultimately led to development of rib-cage i. e. 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 the 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 adapt 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 the world's leading, respected and critically proven Body Language expert, Nonverbal Communication pioneer and my Guru Sir Joe Navarro (retired special agent, Counter-Intelligence Supervisor and Spy-Catcher who served in FBI for 25 years) for coining term 'Turtle Effect'.]

Related Articles:
1) Fear Factor 2) Body Language Brain 3) The Body Seeking Comfort 4) Surprise vs Startle Reflex 5) Amygdala Hijack: Irrational Physical Reactions 6) Chicken and Egg Paradox 7) Body Language under Stress

December 01, 2013

The 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 together. Knot is tied between both of them and they are officially declared as a married couple publicly by performing some rituals and by giving a feast to the attendees.

Some couples may choose to stay in a short-term, a live-in relationship or an 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 many challenges, unforeseen incidents 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 enough time to develop healthy and positive outlook towards each other, survive through rough patches and keep flourishing in unimagined ways. Developing a strong, healthy and respectful bond between two individuals takes a a lot of time.

However, not every person is the same when it comes to have patience, manage negative impulses and guide oneself into a right direction. When many things go beyond peaceful compromise, a couple starts moving into a disappointing stage i. e. separation.

Thinking about "What exactly went wrong?"

n 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. Aren't there any expression, 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 disrespect and dislike towards each other. Both emotional expressions silent convey the wish to stay away from each other. Both are distancing emotional expressions.

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 climb professional, social, economical and materialistic heights with many potential partners in sight and in presence at their respective workplaces.

On the other hand, disgust simply means “I don’t want to or can't 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 (pheromones) that body of one person produces and the another inhales it unconsciously. Pheromones play a 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 their separation in (near) 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.

Related Articles:
1) Courtship and Dance 2) Woman's Courtship Body Language (Part 1) 3) Woman's Courtship Body Language (Part 2) 4) Man's Courtship Body Language 5) Know Who is Attracted to You 6) The Look of Love? 7) Asymmetrical Smile but not Scorn