If a quick scan of the crowd tells you your audience looks riveted, bored, or angry, trust your eyes. New research shows that we average out expressions in a sea of faces to get a reliable mood reading.
The study, published in the Journal of Vision, shows the human brain is wired to speedily pick up on the overall emotional tenor of a crowd, registering everything from alarm over impending danger to fascination, humor and anger as well as mixed emotions.
“Our results suggest that we can recognise how united or divided the crowd is,” says David Whitney, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley and the study’s senior author. For example, he says, “Politicians should be able to gauge how polarising their speech is, and use that to help modify their talking points.”
In a series of experiments, study participants looked fleetingly at photographs of crowds. In some images, all the faces in the crowd showed similar emotions, say, delight. In others, they showed a variety of emotions ranging from happiness to anger.
Study volunteers quickly differentiated between emotional uniformity and emotional diversity in the pictures. The experiments were controlled for such variations as the angle or brightness of faces.
— Source: www.futurity.org...