Athlete Emotions

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Hillel Aviezer, a psychology researcher at Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, was curious if people could accurately read real-life facial expressions, rather than the posed images typically used in the research lab. He decided to perform a study using images of professional tennis players.
He chose this category of athletes because in high-stakes tennis matches, players tend to be very emotional and their facial expressions change after every point. Usually, people are able to recognize what emotion the player is feeling when they see a photo of a tennis player, holding a tennis racket on the court after enduring a well-matched game.
"When I look at a sports magazine, and I see the full picture of a person winning a point, and he has his full gesture, the whole picture makes perfect sense to me," says Aviezer. "The face looks like a victorious face, and the body looks victorious; everything together seems to make perfect sense.
However, Aviezer's opinion on the accuracy of emotional perception changed. He showed people images of only the bodies of the tennis players. People had to judge winners from losers based on body language, not facial expression. "And when people saw the body alone, they easily knew if this was a positive or negative emotion," says Aviezer.
This seems unusual, because people normally think they perceive emotion based on facial expression. This idea is illustrated when Aviezer shows people full images of tennis players -- the faces and bodies. He asks them to describe how they know what the player is feeling, and people usually describe the face. They claim to see tell-tale clues in the player's eyes or mouth. "When in fact it's an illusion," says Aviezer. "They have this false idea of information in the face when really it's coming from the body."
To manipulate the experiment one more time, Aviezer swapped the faces and bodies of winners and losers to create a mix-matched display of emotions. The individuals reported interpretations that coincided with the emotion of bodies.
"When you and I talk to each other and we look at each other, we're really looking at each other's faces. That's where our attention is. And so the assumption has been that that's where all the information is, too," says Barrett, a scientist at Northeastern University who studies emotions. "But these studies show very clearly that that's not the case."
I found this study very interesting. I would agree that I look at peoples faces when seeking hints for emotion. It would be interesting to see how the results of this study if the bodies of different athletes were used, or the bodies of everyday individuals. Maybe something about the body language of tennis players on the tennis court is misleading, due to their stance or some other factor.

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This page contains a single entry by wasse040 published on December 4, 2012 10:31 AM.

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