Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Angry or Sad?

I wasn't initially going to post this here, but the comments and discussion have been so interesting, I decided to include it anyway. Let me know your responses.

Quick, what's the expression of the guy in this picture?

Your response--and whether or not you took into account the feelings of the people behind him--may be a reflection of your culture. I wrote earlier about the neurological test that has recently been conducted, testing East Asian and American patients and their ability to make relative and absolute judgments. Here's another test, utilizing the picture above.
When asked how the foregrounded person -- their face manipulated to look happy, angry or sad -- appeared to feel, nearly three-quarters of 36 Japanese test subjects said their perception was influenced by the emotions of the background figures.

By contrast, nearly three-quarters of 39 North American participants said the people in the background didn't affect them at all. When the researchers tracked the viewers' eye movements, they found that Japanese gazes flitted quickly to the background, while North Americans fixated on the central subject.

My first reaction was that the guy looked determined, and appeared to have a group of friendly followers. (Actually, I thought it was a bunch of people trying to perform an intervention on me.) Only later did I think of the picture in terms of happy or sad.

What about you?

Read the discussion at Japundit.

1st thought: Looks like he's about to throw up. Jusdging from the smile on those behind, he probably ate something nasty on a dare.

2nd thought: The class bully just got kicked in the nuts.
I knew you'd like this.

Did you hear about the 300 Sony Playstation 3s ordered up by the Air Force?
It's interesting on several levels. No matter how I look at the picture, there's no way I can see the guy as happy. It's like a being told to look for an object in a stereograph and not being able to discern it.

What strikes me the most about the picture is the contrast between the foreground and background figures. Does this study imply that contrast is relative? What might be a sharp contrast in one society is fuzzier in another. How far might this extend? Does the emphasis or lack thereof create noticeable differences in the artistic compositions (whether painting, prose, etc.) of these societies?

I just went back and read the original article. The sample size is probably too small to draw firm conclusions. I was taught in statistics you need at least 30 properly picked subjects to get the margin of error within a useable range. What I'd like to see is whether or not one's profession affects the results. I would expect artists might skew toward using context more than the general population. I would also expect that of people working on any endeavor that deals with large scale systems where context matters.


I heard about the Air Force PS3s. I wonder if the bluRay player factored into the decision.

On a related not, I read new content was released for Mass Effect. IIRC, it costs $5. I haven't gotten it yet, but it's just a matter of time.
The title of the post, "Angry or Sad" made me consider only those two options.

Your "Quick..." made me focus instantly on the guy's face and I said "he's angry". Later I looked at the background folks and thought "they are not seeing things through the same eyes as the front guy, who's obviously emotionally upset".

My last thought is he is both angry and sad, frustrated, on the verge of tears. What a terrible injustice he had to suffer, we may never know...
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