AW: Magic as advanced technology

minnow at belfry.org.uk minnow at belfry.org.uk
Fri Sep 17 17:30:24 EDT 2004


Allison wrote, about "reading" people's faces and the direction they look
when lying:

>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.

[snip]

>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.

I have a memory of a radio programme some years ago in which an expert
talking about this subject said that there is only one facial behaviour or
gesture that is universal to every culture that has been studied.  Forget
about smiling (some cultures that can be a threat or more of a come-on than
one really means) or lowering your eyes (may mean modesty or may mean
checking the ground ready to charge) or any hand-gesture at all; there
always turns out to be some awkward bunch of cusses who don't think it
means the same as everyone else does worldwide.

The only one he said they had found means, more or less, "I recognise you
and feel no animosity towards you, but I am busy at this moment and have no
time to greet you properly".  (As it might be, I am hurrying to a lecture
and don't want to shout up a stairwell, or, you are on the escalator going
up in the Mall, I'm on the one going down, or, I am talking with this man
who may be going to contribute a million dollars to my favourite charity if
I convince him he should and I don't dare offend him even to greet a
friend.)  He called it "the ships-that-pass face".  It may have a smile
with it or it may not, depending on what a smile means in the culture.

Widening of the eyes and slightly raised eyebrows apparently means "I see
you, hello" the wide world over.

I have noticed since I heard the programme and was aware of it at all that
I do tend to do this when I see someone I want to acknowledge but for some
reason can't break stride and talk with, and I have noticed other people
doing it.  It isn't something I decide to do, really: it just sort of
happens, in those circumstances.

Minnow


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