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Emotion science for homeland security?

emotion science

Studies show that a person’s emotions can be depicted by the face. It is the human ability to detect a person’s emotion by looking at one’s face. Three emotion scientists worked on this study. The event was hosted by the Affective Science Institute of Northeastern University, named Reading the face: Translating Science to Security. Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern was the leading scientist in the event. Large scale security programmes were ensured at airports due to the 9/11 attack. This technique has helped in arresting criminals who tried to fly away. They interrogated suspicious-looking passengers.

However, some emotion scientists are not in favour of this face reading hypothesis. Jon Freeman of Dartmouth College tried to discover how categorical decisions changed based on context. He used mouse tracking for the same. Then,  presented study subjects with similar faces with different skin tones and different attires. He monitored how quickly they can categorise faces. Philippe Schyns is also not in favour of the hypothesis. He used brain imaging to comprehend the neurological concepts for categorisation decisions. He showed that there are minor but essential differences around the globe and in different cultures. Like the natives of Eastern cultures communicate more with their eyes. However, Western people convey more using their mouths. And an existing hypothesis corroborates Schyns’ opinion.

Is using emotion science effective?

There is not any universal expression for a particular emotion, Barrett elaborates. This hypothesis had been existing for a long time. One cannot leave behind one’s facial expression, which is ethnic to them. Thus, we are not much susceptible to facially transmitted emotional information. Emotion detection is a part of the evaluation, not the conclusion. The screening requires many factors. One of them has to be a mood or expression. However, the answers differ according to one’s ethnicity too. Thus, threat detection experts use a lot of factors for their duty.

Barrett expressed that much of our perception is based on the knowledge we have from our culture. Therefore, this is a challenge for threat detectors. Even in airports, anyone in the millions of passengers might be a terrorist. One cannot catch them by face reading or emotion science. However, this procedure might pose some trouble for them. We cannot exactly say when something is going to happen. Thus, for security purposes, emotion science only isn’t sufficient.


Arpita Priyadarshinee