It’s all in the code

An exiting week as I start my journey into the world of FACS (Facial Action Coding System).

A simple system for mapping what is happening on the face and some parts of the body with a series of alphanumeric identifiers.

It has been good to get back in touch with some old friends from my first days with Paul Ekman International and The Emotional Intelligence Academy, it has almost been like a reunion in a way and I think that has added to the whole excitement of the situation.

So what is FACS?

FACS is a way of demonstrating what is happening on the face by using a series of codes called an AU or Action Unit.  The idea being that you can demonstrate exactly what is happening on a face, without actually needing to see the face itself.  The system was developed by Paul Ekman, Wallace Friesen and Joseph Hager.  An AU itself does not define an emotion has appeared, simply that the use of a muscle or combination of muscles has produced a discernible difference on the face.  This is important to remember!  Many people think that the FACS system is a way of coding emotions, not true, though there are recognised combinations for certain facial displays associated with emotions.  Confused yet?

Think of this more like a map of what is going on in display only. A map of the local countryside is a map only and does not give you the reason for the fields and the hills. Think of FACS in the same way.  As you get deeper you can start to look at the emotional signals that we recognise and start applying a code to them.  A genuine smile uses the AU 6 and 12, and if it is a subtle or gentle smile may be coded as 6c+12c.  The letter following the number indicates the intensity of the action shown.

The cominations are varied and different and have very specific criteria for their measurement.  Not only this but one may impact on the display of another.

If it sounds complicated it is, while being essentially very simple at the same time.  The key is the understanding of how the various muscle groups work together and against each other in the facial displays that we see everyday.

It is considered to take over 100 hours of coding before you would be considered to be proficient at  measuring and mapping the criteria, and many thousands of hours before you could be considered expert.

The advantages of the system of those of us that deal with emotions is it gives us a far greater and finer insight into what actions are behind the facial displays we see.  The advantage is being able to spot the very subtle displays of emotion can be significantly increased.  Think also about squashed, masked, and even display rules.

The system is sound and has been used for many years, in the measurement of psychology patients and in these days significantly more for counter terrorism, advertising and even developing accurate facial displays for computer game characters.

There are many uses that FACS can be diverted into and certainly with the technology advances that are happening these days plans are in place to develop computer systems and programs that use elements of FACS to identify responses to advertisements.  Could we soon be looking at technology that reads what is going on with our face, understands that we are interested by what we see and continues to aim those adverts at us.

I can say with confidence that is being looked at, though at the moment processing power is an issue and the human brain is still far superior at coding.   The best computers are still taking weeks to code a face that takes an experience coder a few minutes.

I will certainly be using the new skills I am learning and expect to hear more on the subject in future.

 

With a curl of the lip, he is not Elvis

“Contempt is the weapon of the weak and a defence against one’s own despised and unwanted feelings.” – Alice Miller.

We are all capable of it.  We see a quality in someone who we don’t like or find immoral or substandard and we start the climb to the moral high ground.

Human beings are naturally a social creature and as such we have a certain established social hierarchy.  This has been much convoluted over the years, mainly through the development of our higher brain processes, established deferential protocols in business and so forth.  you have to love that neo-cortex.  However, we are still at the mercy of our limbic brain when it comes to some of our daily interactions.  Contempt is one of the most unusual of the seven base emotions for two reasons.  Firstly, it is the only unilateral expression in that it only happens on one side of the face.  Secondly, it requires a moral comparative to take place.  The other six base emotions do not have to have a second individual involved.  You can be happy, angry or sad, even disgusted without another person being involved.  Contempt requires direct interaction with another individual.  It comes by the assessment of that individual and their actions in direct comparison to how we would behave in the same situation, or as a direct result of a previous interaction.  Contempt is filled with self-identity.  It requires an element of higher brain function but is still shown at the Micro-facial expression level showing that it can still appear on the face before the cognitive mind has a chance to get in the way.

As mentioned contempt is the only unilateral universal expression.  There doesn’t seem to be any definitive study on which side of the face it tends to appear on, but I have noticed (not scientifically measured) that right-handed people tend to show contempt on the left side of the face and vice-versa.  Perhaps others would like to confirm or deny this observation.

Contempt is shown by a tightening of the cheek muscle, pulling the lips up and outwards, almost a half-smile, though there is no involvement with the muscles around the eye.  Sometimes, though not always, the head will tip backwards slightly giving the appearance of  “looking down the nose”.

Let me point out at this time, that Elvis was not showing contempt in his lip curl, though that lip is almost the further extension of the contempt expression into the sneer.  A demonstration that is almost a contempt/disgust blend.  Sometimes the contempt comes with dismissive emblems, the flick of the hand, the closed shoulder and a prolonged blink when using dismissive language.

Contempt is not a pleasant emotion to be on the receiving end of.  It is degrading, it makes you feel worthless.  In a working relationship if a staff member demonstrates contempt for a superior, that working relationship is likely to be unrecoverable.  This can be said also for a customer to a supplier.

As the quote from Alice at the head of this post says; you often see contempt being raised when someone sees something they don’t like about themselves in another person.

Contempt can easily lead to disgust and anger, and that itself leads to a whole heap of problems of its own.

Just what are you capable of?

So many people have the nay-say attitude, they stand in your way telling you that things can’t be done, that’s not going to happen, you won’t succeed.

For many years I myself felt that I would not accomplish much, and the biggest nay-sayer was myself.  I spent my early working years on a YTS scheme.  For those of you not brought up during the Thatcher years in the UK, this was a way of replacing the Apprenticeship system to get people out of school and straight into work.  Paying a basic limited wage with the intention of learning skills for a job.  I didn’t want this to be my life, but I had bills to pay.

From the age of sixteen I have steered my own path and made of myself what I could.  I am by no means an entrepreneur, but I can say that all my accomplishments have been my own.  Despite being told “you can’t do that!”

The only person that knows what you are capable of, is you!

It is very easy when we are low, when we seem to keep coming up against barriers in trying to accomplish things, to fall into a pattern enforced by people who have no concept of the damage that they can do.

If I had accepted what others believed, I would never have spent eight years as a successful Club DJ.  A career I loved with a passion.  It was hard work.  I worked late nights and usually had to follow those with long waits on station platforms waiting for a train back home.

When I became ill in 2005 and I had to make a decision to leave that life behind for something with more stability.  At the time I really had no choice over that decision, so I never grieved for that loss.  But what would have happened if I would have listened to the people saying that is not a real job?

It is very easy to fall into the trap of self-doubt.  Let us face facts, there are many people out there that are willing to put you down and get in your way if it will further their own agenda.  It can seem like every direction you turn starts to bring up a brick wall and your self-esteem starts to suffer. Don’t let it!

Next time you find yourself questioning your own abilities, or someone else does, remember, only you can know what you are truly capable of.  The challenge is going beyond that boundary to accomplish something more.  Then think of the satisfaction you will have of a job well done.  Let us be honest to ourselves, a little bit of shameful joy at proving the nay-sayers wrong is very satisfying.

Consider also before you discredit someone else’s ideas, consider the impact that might have, and look at a different way of delivering the message.

Remaining positive is key and the Stanislavski method has some elements that can help with this.  When you construct an emotion on your face and in your body posture you will actually start to feel elements of that emotion.  If you start to smile you will start to feel the happier emotion itself.  If you start looking angry you will feel the irritation and frustration you associate with anger.   Use this method to your advantage.  Next time you are feeling that low ebb, raise your head, jut out your chin, square your shoulders and challenge the world to a fight of wills you know you can win!