The face is the mirror of the cultural mind

Chen, C. , Garrod, O., Schyns, P. and Jack, R. (2015) The face is the mirror of the cultural mind. Journal of Vision, 15(12), p. 928. (doi: 10.1167/15.12.928) (PMID:26326616)

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With the advent of the digital economy, increasing globalization and cultural integration, cross-cultural social communication is increasing, where the mutual understanding of mental states (e.g., confusion, bored) is a key social skill. One of the most powerful tools in social communication is the face, which can flexibly create a broad spectrum of dynamic facial expressions. Yet, systematic cultural differences in face signalling and decoding (e.g., see Jack, 2013 for a review) presents a challenge to the evolving communication needs of modern society (e.g., designing culturally aware digital avatars and companion robots that can adaptively recognize and produce both culture-specific and universal face signals). Understanding which face signals support accurate communication across cultures, and those that produce confusions therefore remains a central question. To address this question, we used a 4D Generative Face Grammar (GFG, Yu et al., 2012) with reverse correlation (Ahumada & Lovell, 1972) to model the dynamic facial expressions of four mental states – ‘thinking,’ ‘interested,’ ‘bored’ and ‘confused’ – in 15 Western Caucasian (WC) and 15 East Asian (EA) observers (See Figure S1 Panel A. See also Jack et al., 2012, 2014, Gill et al., 2014). Cross-cultural comparison of the dynamic models revealed, for each mental state, clear commonalities (see Figure S1, Panel B, Common Signals) and cultural specificities in AU patterns (Culture-specific Signals). To illustrate, in ‘confused,’ Cheek Raiser/Lip Stretcher are culturally common, whereas Upper Lip Raiser is WC-specific and Jaw Drop is EA-specific. Similarly, in ‘thinking,’ the Chin Raiser is culturally common, whereas the Dimpler is WC-specific and, in contrast, Brow Lowerer/Nostril Compressor are EA-specific. Together, our data provides a common face signalling basis for cross-cultural social communication, and identifies confusing face signals, with implications for the digital economy (e.g., algorithms designed to automatically detect face signals, e.g., Vinciarelli et al., 2009).

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Garrod, Dr Oliver and Schyns, Professor Philippe and Jack, Professor Rachael and Chen, Dr Chaona
Authors: Chen, C., Garrod, O., Schyns, P., and Jack, R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Vision
Publisher:Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
ISSN (Online):1534-7362

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