AW: Magic as advanced technology

Allison Marles apm at
Fri Sep 17 14:22:28 EDT 2004

On Thu, Sep 16, 2004 at 11:33:39AM -0600, Otter Perry wrote:
> On Thursday, September 16, 2004, at 05:51 AM, Belben Philip wrote:
> >Another way the eyeballs show emotion (thinking at the keyboard, here,
> >always dangerous!) is that people flick their vision briefly in other
> >directions.  The direction, frequency and angle of flick probably 
> >contain a
> >lot of clues.  ISTR reading somewhere, I think a work of fiction, in 
> >which a
> >character flicked his eyes upwards when telling the truth and 
> >downwards when
> >lying.  Or something.
> IIRC, people look up to the left when doing one and up to the right when
> doing the other.  It has to do with which part of the brain is being 
> accessed.
> [My immediate source is the file "The Negotiator."]
> --------------------------------------------

I hate to break it to you, but these sorts of heuristics have been
shown to be completely unreliable when actually analysed.  People
_sometimes_ do these things certainly, but treating them as either
always occuring or always meaning the same thing is a mistake. I remember
reading about this in a paper debunking "lie detectors" (which are
actually extremely inaccurate and can give incorrect readings both
from accidental things and intentional behaviour).

There are pretty much no "rules" you can use to determine emotional
state or intentions.  Which is not to say that empathic people (ie.
people who are good at interpreting minute body changes) cannot learn a
good deal about what someone is feeling or thinking, but it cannot be
translated into a general list since it varies between different people
and different circumstances.  

Some things we get good at reading in general ... like "is this person
happy".  But think about it, how often have you caught a friend
"pretending" to be happy ?  They may have been smiling, and talking
brightly, but those alone don't translate to "happy". Generally, we get
better at "reading" someone the more we know them, because we get to
know their specific emotional cues and we get to see them in a range of
different circumstances. More expressive people are generally easier to
"read" because we have more cues to pick up on. 

I expect culture also plays a big part on what the common cues are.  I
would expect that maybe the eye thing is more common in Westerners, but
that it would be something completely different in Eastern countries.
Either way, I think it's much more reliable to go with your instinct,
which comes from a far more complex analysis, than with a "he's left
handed, he looked to the left, he must be truthful" or something.

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