Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I just finished a book called blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It made a very interesting read. A section in the book talked about the work of two remarkable scientists who are experts at mind reading. The duo has studied human faces and facial expressions in such great depth that they are able to decipher even the most imperceptible of emotions that would flash across any face.
The scientists agree that our face indeed reflects our mind. Facial muscles can be categorized as voluntary and involuntary muscles. Voluntary muscles are the ones that are under our control. These muscles can be used to deliberately show or conceal a certain emotion/s. Involuntary muscles however are not under our control and can be tagged as muscles that “spill the beans”. In other words, no matter how hard one tries to fake an emotion via the voluntary muscles, an astute mind reader can look at the signs given off by the involuntary muscles and sense what the person truly felt.
Try and picturise what it would be like if we lost all ability to emote via our face. Our faces then would be reduced to art forms; some beautiful, some ordinary, some ugly. The expressions twinkling eyes, infectious smile, sexy pout would simply lose their meaning. We would appear like robots programmed to do tasks, except that we would still have a mind of our own. Majority of the tasks we perform require human collaboration; would we be able to collaborate without our facial expressions? How much would our mind then accomplish? No doubt, our mind would be freed of a lot of work (of mind reading) and it would probably be reduced to doing straightforward computations in such situations.
Without our facial expressions we would lose an important medium of communication. We would either have to talk or write to communicate. How cumbersome would that be? This would be advantageous in certain situations like
  • You could lie without being caught.
  • You could sugar coat your words when you actually wanted to frown in disgust.
  • You could measure your words or even better have time to think before reacting when your temper soars.
However, for the most part it would be a bane rather than a boon.
  • You would not know how to react when you break the 10pm curfew and come home to find Dad at the door.
  • Lovers would not be able to fathom the love in their partner’s eyes.
  • What would one do in situations when one is at a loss for words?
  • How would your pet know when it is time to be a good boy?
  • How would we pick on the Machiavellian’s intentions and know what to do to save our lives?
Would we be led to extinction or would we just stop evolving? I shudder at the thought. It is really hard to imagine where we would be without the functioning of these small muscles!
I close my eyes in a silent prayer and smile to myself everytime I think about this wonderful gift that God has bestowed upon us.
Interesting links