insight through faces

People often ask me why i hate the telephone. I know that i pay attention to faces; i know that i read lips. I prefer IM over phone because at least then i can read over things to see my own misperceptions; i don’t read voices that well. Usually, the articles i read on faces tend to bore me. But i finally got around to reading Malcolm Gladwell’s The Naked Face. OMG. If you’ve never read this article, do. It’s an amazing ethnographic piece on how important the face is in reading what is really going on beneath the words.

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7 thoughts on “insight through faces

  1. Rich

    The reason I hate the telephone is because way too many people think that having my number is equivalent to having the right to my instant attention whenever they want. I had one friend who used to regularly come around and shout at me for turning off my landline phone when I wanted to concentrate (which is, admittedly, almost all the time), and another who thought it entirely reasonable to phone me at 4am every day for a week.

    I’d much rather either use emails, to which I can reply at my leisure, or else give somebody my full attention face to face.

  2. Randy

    My best friend would yell at me for leaving my cell phone at home or off. He told me that it is there for him to reach me. Actually my phone if for my use and is not a tether. It is for my convenience and not for the convenience of whoever has the number!

  3. Rayne

    You might find this an interesting activity after reading that article:

    A diversity program at a Fortune 50 company for which I once worked prefaced its coursework by instructing students that 90% of what is different between people is not visible (we discriminate based on a small amount of arbitrary, outward data). “The Naked Face” provides further validation for this anecdotal claim. Good stuff, thanks for point out this article.

  4. joe

    Interestingly, I was at the SFMoMA yesterday and noticed a very curious set of photographs in the “Changing California Landscape” exhibit[1]. Turns out that these two curious photographs were plate 52 and 14 of Guillame Duchenne’s[2] “Mecanisme de la physionomie humaine” (The Mechanism of Human Physiognomy).

    Duchenne is mentioned as a facial expression pioneer (these two photos were dated 1862!) in Gladwell’s paper… he produced this book above by shocking muscles on a guy’s face to contract muscles and then photographing the resulting expressions. One of these pictures is not remarkable (the expression is one of surprise)… the other is one of the expressions that Gladwell and Ekman note as not really being anything… which makes it look really strange.

    If you’ll be at the MoMA soon, I suggest you check these two photos out!

    [2] The photographs are attributed to Duchenne under his full name”Guillame Benjamin Duchenne de Boulogne”

  5. jordan

    So interesting. THanks for sharing that.

    I feel a twinge of fear, though, at the thought that this is all info that could be easily built into biometric systems.

  6. bdh

    Back when I was in undergrad (well, that’s not that far back, really) I was a part of a group that went through an evaluation of how people responded to facial, body and verbal cues.

    They sat us down and showed us 20 or so examples of peoples faces, and asked us to pick from a set of 5 or so options an indication of their mood. Then the same for full body images, except with the faces blacked out. And then 20 audio only playbacks of the same sentence with different intonations.

    I’ve always been an auditory person – and I had nearly a perfect score for the voice only ID’s. But when it came to the facial and body language identification, I was down in the 20% accuracy range. Taking away the auditory side really threw me for a loop.

    But they also showed us how accurate we were, related to other people in the test (about 900, I think) and most people were much more responsive to the visual cues, and much less responsive to the auditory ones than I was.

    I’ve always chalked this up to the fact that I had several jobs before and during college that involved being on the phone almost all the time, so I adapted to that. Even now, where I seem to spend my entire day in meetings (horror) I find that when not speaking, I am often looking down at my notes, or away/out the window while listening – that I try and remove the visual to focus on the audio only.

    I’m sure people are studying this – but it begs the question of how effective different people are in various modes of communication based on their backgrounds – certianly these days, testing to see how well people were able to read or convey intent or emotion via text (email or IM) would be a valid extension of the test I was a part of.

  7. Metamanda's Weblog

    two interesting links

    Stole these from danah, who a while ago when I wasn’t looking named her blog “apophenia” though it’s still on my blogroll as “zephoria”. I will soon comment more on these two unrelated links but I’m in a hurry: the naked face (see entry) Why Heather Ca…

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