Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Flushed with Emotion
22 April 2018

Flushed with Emotion

Have you ever felt your face flush with embarrassment, or prickle with anger? Just as we recognise these feelings rising, it seems other people do too. Participants in a recent study were often able to spot emotions in strangers’ faces, from changes in blood flow around their cheeks, chin, nose, and eyebrows. The woman in this picture is making happy or angry expressions, but only in the left of each pair is she also producing the distinctive blood patterns associated with the true emotion (her happy cheeks in the top left, for example). While these patterns are universal across age, gender or race, we have different patterns for related emotions, such as 'angry' and 'disgusted' or 'happy' and 'happily disgusted' (respectively from the left in the maps bottom row). It's possible that these subtleties may be missed by some sufferers of expressive agnosia, leading to confusion in reading emotion.

Written by John Ankers

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