Facial Analytics: a management 3.0 secret weapon (part 2)

Part two: The Origins of Facial Analytics (part one is here)

Descriptions of  a pseudo science known as face reading exist in the ancient literature of Greece, China, and Europe. While those ideas have been largely discredited by science, a new practice of facial analytics is emerging as a progressive science for psychological assessment.  Here is a brief introduction into its modern origins and potential applications:

In the 1960’s western psychologists considered the face a meager source of mostly inaccurate, culture-specific, stereotypical information (Bruner & Tagiuri, 1954). But things were about to change and new research on this subject of facial emotions would have a dramatic impact in developing the science of facial analytics.  Silvan Tomkins, a well-known American clinical psychologist and personality theorist was instrumental in convincing two of his mentees, Paul Ekman and Carroll Izard to pursue research independently of each other on non-verbal communication of facial emotions. They discovered that humans, across varied cultures, both literate and preliterate, shared agreement between emotions and the corresponding facial expressions (Ekman & Friesen, 1971 and Izard 1971). In other words,  an innate grammar of emotional expression links all humans.  This research has had many implications in developing the practice of facial analytics and taking it out of the realm of the mystical and into the empirical. For example, this evidence of universality both required and justified nearly a decade of work to develop methods for measuring the movements of the face. Ekman and his partner Wallace Friesen developed the Facial Action Coding System, which was the first and most comprehensive technique for scoring all visually distinctive, observable facial movements.  A few years later, in 1979, Izard published his own technique for selectively measuring those facial movements that he thought were relevant to emotion.

Universality of emotions is the key

According to Ekman a universal emotion requires a distinctive expression so another human from any culture can know instantly from a glance how a person is feeling. By that measure one would only have to look at the evidence on how many emotions have distinctive expressions to determine the number of universal emotions. Originally distinctive universal expressions were identified for anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and enjoyment. Overtime Ekman added:  contempt, surprise, amusement, embarrassment, guilt, pride, contentment, relief, satisfaction, sensory pleasure and shame.  So far, this brings the list of emotions that have a universal facial expression to fifteen.

Fifteen universal emotions may not seem like a very complete system for describing the richness of human emotions. If you remember, however, that there are anywhere from 40 to as many 196 muscles in the face(depending on how you enumerate them) and each muscle can take from two to nine different positions; you end up with an astronomical number of possible muscle movements or nuances of emotional expression. If you add to these to the potential permutations and combinations of emotions such as a happy configuration followed by a sadness configuration, which is very different from a sadness configuration followed by a happy configuration-you can see how the possibilities approach infinity.

Given the complexity of possibilities, the fifteen fundamental emotions serve as templates and organizing principles for interpreting an otherwise overwhelming amount of data.  Fifteen universal emotions give a meaningful and sufficiently discrete set while at the same time allowing a range of expressiveness so vast it gives weight to the idea that the face the most sophisticated information system on planet Earth.

FOX TV jumps on the bandwagon

Famed film and television producer Brian Grazer created a show based largely on Dr. Ekman’s work. The show “Lie to Me” has been running on the Fox network for several seasons. The show however tends to focus on facial analytics as system for deception detection, which is only a small part of face reading’s potential.

Dr. Ekman studied the changes in human emotional expression in the moment. Consequently Dr. Ekman only presented part of facial analytic’s bigger picture.  What were missing were the long-term implications of persistent emotional states and the ability to see the face as an index to the mind.

A breakthrough uncovers a new science

While Ekman focused on the easier to quantify facial data called micro-expressions, it was the work of Dr. Michael Lincoln that led to the psychologically holistic applications of facial analytics.

Michael J. Lincoln was born in Berkley, California in 1933. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Oregon, where he spent several years teaching, research assisting and working at mental hospitals. He was one of the first psychologists successful in the integration of behavioral and psychoanalytic approaches. Along with all this clinical work, he served as a professor of psychology at the University for several years, where he trained students in professional clinical psychology, conducted research, and taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s in the midst of this extraordinarily intense career work and the accompanying high case loads Dr. Lincoln uncovered the holistic face-reading process based upon modern psychological assessment approaches. The unimaginably massive amounts of data from Dr. Lincoln’s case load may have contributed to the realization after a time that he was able to predictively complete the patient’s case file with nearly 100% accuracy, without having done the interview.  Naturally, he found this fascinating and unusual.  So he began systematically studying the phenomenon. Over time he unearthed literature from the East and the West about the process and integrated that which could be empirically tested and added to his understanding of facial analytics.

What makes it possible (the face as index of the mind)

Let’s take a closer look at the potential for facial analytics. Consider the intersection of face reading and human emotional and psychological development from birth.

As each human child develops, many factors will shape and influence their personalities, perceptions and experience of life. How the growing human interacts with her or his environment definitely registers on their face.  Infant studies have all built a case for the impact of maternal facial expression on the child (Stein et al, 2009, Klinnert, 1983). For example adult behaviors such as being withdrawn or people avoidant are sometimes traced back to sensing as a child a contradiction between words and facial expressions. (Lincoln, 1989)  According to Dr. Lincoln, the developmental process is like an inverted pyramid. In this respect, seemingly small and insignificant events can have a cascading effect on the child’s development well beyond the proportion of the original interaction.  For instance if the kid gets the message from the mother’s face, “I wish you weren’t here,” that is tantamount to getting a message from the in loco deity that “I don’t belong here, God says so!”  From here one can see patterns of shame, guilt, frustration and a host of accompanying scripts, especially in the area of self esteem. The child translates the original facial expression-exchange as, “I am not worthy of love.” This in turn initiates thought patterns and behaviors that reinforce the feeling of not being worthy.

To complicate and place even more importance on the developmental years is the intensity and speed at which human interactions occur.  Import research and discovery on this subject was done by William Condon in the 60’s. Using motion picture film Condon noticed blurs in the single frames of film shot at the normal 24 frames per second.  By speeding up the rate of filming (which slows everything down during playback) he was able to prove that human behavior can occur at rate of 64 pulses per second. Each pulse involves a different pattern of subtle moving in muscles and body parts. In addition to this Condon was able to demonstrate that humans interact as fast as 16 times per second. This means an unimaginably rapid and potentially dense amount of information is being shared from person to person. (Edward T. Hall Beyond Culture Anchor Books, 1977)  This subtle and high speed interaction had been given the name, Kinesic Dance, by Ray Birdwhistle.

In addition, research has shown an extraordinarily high amount of shifting influence of the mother over the child In respect of punishments that are particularly effective in socializing guilt (which leverages fear). According to Kemper in his 1987 paper on the number of emotions, “Sears, Maccoby, and Levin (1957) found that the most important was withdrawal of love. Hence, the most potent fear aroused in the punishment situation may be fear of loss of love. Where there is no love to lose, the fear would ordinarily be considerably less; the likelihood is then much reduced of linking the several elements of fear, forbidden act, punishment, and label.

Hoffman noted that the “available evidence suggests that in the 2- 4 year-old range children experience pressures from mothers to change their behavior on the average of every six to eight minutes throughout their waking hours, and in the main they end up complying” (Hoffman, 1977, p. 93). Demos (1982) also observed a change over time in the pattern of mothers’ evaluations, comments, and voice tones. When their infants were 9-15 months old, the mothers’ vocal productions were mainly positive. By the 21-month period, mothers had shifted to a more irritated, perfunctory, and didactic tone, oriented, as in the materials reported by Hoffman, toward obtaining behavior change. Certainly, the high rate of behavior change parents require of their children by the second year is not achieved in most cases without punishment of which the child ordinarily develops some fear. Indeed, before gaining the ability to reason through the grounds for a behavior change, children must necessarily control their conduct largely through fear of the aversive consequences learned through previous punishment.”

Because every emotion experienced ends up being repeatedly expressed on the child’s face a history of the dynamics, and character of the these interactions is trace into each human face.

A graphic anecdote about child rearing

The most graphic example of this phenomenon was the film footage of a mother holding twins (Condon, 196?). In the five-minute film one twin start to fuss and cry while the other remains calm. When they ran the film in slow motion it came out that the mother and her preferred twin were involved in a mutual validation experience sixteen times a second while she and the other twin were involved in a mutual rejection pattern sixteen times a second. By the end of five minutes he had received 4800 rejections. When seen in slow motion, the impact is overwhelming and the implications staggering (Michael Lincoln, 2007).

This type of interaction should give you a sense of how the face is able to record these patterns of behavior, like grooves cut into a record; emotions become behavioral traces which become part of a permanent index of the mind. As muscular reactions to the environment repeat over and over they even begin to mold the bone and cartilaginous structures of the face.  This constructed legacy becomes a part of what a face reader identifies when reading a person’s history as it has been recorded on their face.

Conclusion (and caution)

Learning facial analytics sets you apart from others. Knowing more than the person you are dealing with knows about you is power, and with power comes responsibility.  You become part of an élite sect with a clear advantage over others. It is up to you to use this advantage for good and humanitarian purposes and not selfish ends.

Call for research participation – how functional is your workplace?

You can’t fix what you can’t see

Think about how cool it would be to have insight into the psychological dynamics present in your workplace. Psychological and operational insight can give you, as a company owner or CEO, fascinating and practical information that can be used to increase productivity, employee loyalty, retention, cooperation, etc…

As an industrial/organizational psychologist, working on my PhD, I am currently gathering data for a larger research project on productivity and employee interaction. I am looking for companies that will allow me to come in and analyze your culture. I would share my findings with you.

To take advantage of this chance and be part of this study you need to have a physical office space with at least 15 employees* under one roof. (There’s no limit in the other direction but if you’re a huge company you should consider a supporting grant 🙂 .) Your company should be in the tech, information services, or media sectors. You must also be located in either in greater Los Angeles, or the Bay area. (Use this formif you want to ask about eligibility).

Throughout this process your privacy and company trade practices will be kept confidential (a non-disclosure agreement will be provided.)

3 levels of interaction

You decide how deeply you are willing to allow me to study your organization.

Level 1: questions and observation – this is simply giving me access to your executives and management for brief interviews and a chance to observe your workplace for two to four days over a period of a couple of weeks. The number of days depends on the size of your company.

Level 2: staff surveys and management personality assessments – this level of data gathering and investigation provides deeper insight into the underlying psychology that controls your company culture. Naturally this requires more time than level one.

Level 3: interviews on video – this includes everything in levels 1 and 2 and additionally involves conducting a number of videotaped interviews and possible group discussions. The video footage provides powerful evidence of underlying dynamics and issues confronting your staff and leadership. This process is especially insightful if your company is experiencing change management issues.

As I said earlier your privacy is secure and data acquired at all levels will only be used anonymously in my research work. If you want this type of analysis done at your company but do not wish to make the findings available for publishing, these services are available as consultation at the rate of $1,400 per day

Knowledge is power.

Upon completion of the data gathering I will sit down with you and present my findings. I believe you will find the process insightful and even inspiring.  Part of my work aims at training and educating employers about the way that social science can inform best business practice. Your support of this research will not only help you but will build a better environment for business overall.

If you would like to be considered for this project please fill out this request form. There is a limit to the number of companies I will select and I can only do this type of work for as long as my present funding holds out (which is mostly coming from earlier projects).

I look forward to hearing from you and getting under the hood of your organization.

Sincerely,

Atma

*We make exceptions to the 15 person rule if your company is a promising start-up that has completed at least one round of funding.

Fill out this formif you want to discuss eligibility and participation

Organizational Psychology – the dominant force

Fix the institute; heal the man – the underlying hypothesis for my over all approach to healing society through organizational design and changing the psychology of an institute

Part of my working hypothesis is, “Humans may have originally created the institutions around us, but eventually these institutions come to create us.”

Industrial or organizational psychology is a management process that knows that both humans and institutions have an underlying psychology. The organizational psychologist also understands that of the two, the institutional psychology is the dominant force. Change the psychology of the institute and you will change the psychology of the individuals.

By institution I mean most any place where humans interact regularly: school, work, home, church, and so on. Think of institutions as any matrix of roles, e.g. mother, daughter, grandparents, or worker, supervisor, executive, or student, teacher, administrator.  (Of course for our work we are going to be focusing on the workplace.)

There have always been brave souls who buck the overwhelming influence of societal pressure. Sadly, however, science and history have provided copious evidence for the fact that humans tend to submit to the influence and expectation of the institutions around us.

An institute is not a living being, at least not in the way you and I are. It is, however, a dynamic entity, made up of unspoken and usually unseen expectations, rules, customs, mores, and behavioral demands.  Think of institutional psychology as a deep structure that acts as a hidden, generative grammar. This grammar strongly influences behavior. This grammar is made up of rules that inform the psychology of the institute.

These rules and values enter into the so called psychology of the institute at the time we humans create it, so we are responsible. But we often instill these traits without being aware we are doing it. Consequently the psychological traits of the institution tend to reflect what is going on in the culture at large. If the prevalent traits in society are sexism, racism, classism, individualism, or patriarchal, homophobic, atheistic, fascistic, or any other of the fear based human behaviors, these tend to become imbedded into the psyche of the institute without any one purposely putting them there or even conscious of how it happens.

Once we have built our institutions in such a manner we then tend to live within their expectations and under its influence. And this is dangerous, and a sign of going through life inattentively. But you can see how we are living in our creations.

The bright spot in all this, and the essence of my life’s work, is that humans are marvelously adaptive. So, big and small, we can rebuild the institutions of daily life. We can recreate them in a way that will help shape humanity into the best of traits, such as, kindness, courage, honesty, selflessness, and more.

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This is not to say that humans do not have sufficient free will to define their mores and behaviors on their own, they do. But in general they don’t. This is because we are extremely social and interconnected beings. We appreciate deeply the support and reinforcement of those around us, and we like to offer the same. But in the context of operating within our various institutions, family life, school, the workplace, where the underlying expectations that lead to acceptable or “appropriate” behavior has been infused with the fear based characteristic I mentioned above, then we inadvertently (or unmindfully) but understandably  conform to the norm. Sadly it is easier to just go along with the flow. And sometimes the economic pressure to do so is great. After all, the student needs her degree, the journalist has to pay the rent, so failing to conform can economically unbearable. The added dilemma is that conformity over extended periods of time is rarely superficial. Humans tend to internalize-that is embed into their own psyche-behaviors and expectations that are repeated or maintained over extended periods of time.

This is why I am focused on helping change the psychology of institutions more so than just the individuals (who I am also willing to help). But if I take 1000 people out of an institution with a 1000 people, put them through a three week mindfulness boot camp, strengthening their character and motivating them positively, when I send them back to the unchanged institution, the majority will revert to the influence of the institute’s psychology. Some won’t. But of those, most will end up leaving. This is the overwhelming pattern in humanity today. So you can see why I focus my work around the idea that, “Humans may have originally created the institutions around us, but eventually these institutions come to create us.”