Tag Archives: Emotion recognition

Is there a human sense of psychological and physical distress in others that operates below the level of consciousness?

I’ve just been watching the former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull being interviewed on the 7.30 news program. I was particularly struck by his revelation that during the period of his career following his gross misjudgement in the “Utegate” affair he was in a very dark emotional state, despite maintaining his usual polished and confident image. When Turnbull fell for the deception of an unhinged and ill public servant who claimed implausibibly that the very wealthy and ambitious leader of the party opposing Turnbull’s party had accepted an old utility truck as a political bribe, that destroyed my confidence in Turnbull as a leader, and we now know, it also wrecked his own self-image. As I marvelled at the contrast beteen the politician’s inner state and his exterior image, I was reminded of a baffling dream that I had when Turnbull was still a political leader.

I rarely remember my dreams, but this one was also remarkable for other reasons. In the dream I somehow percieved that Turnbull was in a dire state of unhappiness due to his work and this concerned me. His facial expression was sad but not extreme, so this was one of many examples of a dream in which I simply knew something by telepathy or unclear means. In my dream I said something like “Cheer up, it’s only a job”. Upon waking I was baffled that I even cared about this politician in my dream, as I deplored his party and never had much interest in him as an individual. I hadn’t recalled noticing any particular news or media coverage at the time suggesting a drop in this politician’s career satisfaction. After wondering what in the world had prompted this oddly vivid dream, it seemed to me that the dream was a manifestation of a basic human concern for others that operates independently of conscious rational judgements about another person’s character. Now that I know that possibly at the time of my dream I might have seen Turnbull on TV during the time when he was feeling secretly bleak, I’m left wondering whether I had unconsciously sensed something in his voice, appearance, words or manner that betrayed his real state, and this perception was explored in my dream. This wouldn’t be the first time that I apparently sensed stress and serious danger in a person I was not particularly close to.

When I was in my 20s I once got the idea into my head to write in a Christmas card a sincere hope that the recipient (not a close relative by any means) not suffer a heart attack. I thought twice about that choice of wording and asked my flat-mate if she thought it appropriate. She clearly thought I had lost my mind,  as any sensible person would, but still I felt genuine concern about this ambitious and busy person who I saw only occassionally, who always seemed to be bathed in sweat. Roughly a year later I recieved news of that person’s full recovery from a heart attack. A few years later I formed the opinion, based on what I am not sure, that one of my work supervisors, a kind person but not one who I felt was a friend, was headed for trouble due to trying to do too much in tackling the roles of mother of young children, wife, career-builder and property investor. Not long after that she came down with shingles, a nasty disease that can be triggered by stress. I’ll never know why I felt constantly concerned about a friend of one of our young adult offspring in the week before we were shocked by the terrible news of her suicide. I had only met this striking person a few times and we weren’t friends or close, but the day before we recieved the news I had been asking questions at work in the faint hope that there might be a job opportunity for her there. In hindsight, many other people would have known enough to be very concerned for her welfare, much more than I did, so I’m baffled as to how I apparently sensed imminent danger in the life of a person I barely knew and was not in direct contact with.

Maybe these anecdotes are all nothing more than unhappy coincidences that appear to be predictions when viewed in retrospect. Could I or anyone have altered fate? Even if it is possible to sense the approaching date when a friend or acquaintance will reach beyond their physical or psychological limits, I ask you, how do you save someone from themself?

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/malcolm-turnbull-the-7-30-interview

Famous doubles, celebrity doppelgangers, you know what I mean….

Late-night TV is the best TV, for many reasons: programs don’t have to rate well and don’t have to pander to the mindless masses, programs can have challenging or naughty content, such as satirical comedy or heart-rending documentaries, because of less restrictions from classifications, and news TV in the small hours picks up the best part of the news-creating day on the other side of the world where all the exciting stuff happens, and late-night news TV has shows from the BBC and other overseas news networks with serious content that operates on an entirely different level to the mediocrity of news in remote Perth or down-under Australia. One of these worthy foreign news programs that you only get to see at a ridiculous time of morning is the political interview show Conflict Zone. I do love watching Tim Sebastian glaring over his specs at major foreign public figures while relentlessly demanding that they answer his questions, in full. I have no idea why these politicians and assorted suits consent to these public inquisitions. Masochistic streak? It makes 7.30 on the ABC look like daytime chat.

My super-recognizer thing often “goes off” when I watch Mr Sebastian’s mature male face, with his dark eyes fixed on his prey and his head at a lowered angle that is reminiscent of a wolf’s aggressive stance. I know of no other journo or TV personality who has this “look”. It’s confronting.

I have absolutely no conscious intention to compare Mr Sebastian to any infamous historical figure, but I can’t help automatically seeing the visual facial resemblance and the emotional similarity in the situation between Mr Sebastian’s bracing interview style and scenes from a German movie featuring a mature male actor that are so over-the-top in interpersonal fury and entertaining that they have taken on a second life as internet meme fodder.

Can you spot a sex offender or a terrorist just by looking at their face?

Adee, Sally Controversial software claims to tell personality from your face. New Scientist. May 27th 2016.

Similar story also in print: Issue 3076. June 4th 2016.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2090656-controversial-software-claims-to-tell-personality-from-your-face/