A study reveals that the brain innately interprets eye wrinkles as an indication that a person is more sincere and more passionate.
Essentially, people have a preconceived notion that someone's eye wrinkles meant that he or she could be trusted more than a person who does not have eye wrinkles.
Researchers at the Western University defined these wrinkles as the Duchenne marker. While wrinkles are commonly attributed to old age, Duchenne markers are actually caused by making different facial expressions. These markers occur when someone smiles, feels pain, and even when someone feels sad.
The insights from the study will be significant in understanding why varied facial expressions involve specific facial muscle contractions and how interpreting them could lead to more successful social interactions. One future and practical application of the study is that experts could understand why people with autism spectrum disorder have trouble interpreting emotions of other people.
A Universal Language Of Facial Expressions
The findings, published in the journal Emotion on June 11, provided evidence that feelings could be classified through a universal language.
"In other words, a given facial action may have a single role across multiple facial expressions -especially if that facial action shapes your social interactions," explained Nour Malek, the first author of the study. Duchenne markers, for example, could warn people whether the person they are interacting with is giving them a genuine or a fake smile.
Visual Rivalry Method
To reach their conclusions, the researchers employed a method called "visual rivalry." The process involved showing the participants of the study several photos of facial expressions where Duchenne markers are both discernible and hidden.
The researchers observed participants' brains to see which expressions are perceived as more important. Images interpreted by the brain as more significant appeared on the participant's perceptual awareness more frequently and for a longer period.
Additionally, researchers asked participants to rate the facial expressions according to intensity and sincerity. They methodically rated the smiles and sad faces of images with pronounced Duchenne markers as more genuine and more passionate.
Dr. Julio Martinez-Trujillo, a professor at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University, described the visual rivalry method as "a window into the unconscious." The method is capable of distinguishing even the involuntary thoughts being processed by the brains, Martinez-Trujillo explained.
As for the study's results, the brains of the participants instinctively gave importance to photos of people with prominent Duchenne markers.