According to Wickipedia, mental health professionals refer to the emotional impacts of harmful and helpful behaviors as valence. And they credit valence with our judgement and choices. Fear is an example of an emotion with negative valence, while joy exemplifies positive valence.
The valence effect denotes a normal tendency to think of positive rather than negative outcomes. Having a positive valence effect can inspire us to achieve greater heights than if we merely looked at the negatives that were in front of us, although some would call it wishful thinking. It surly comes in handy if we have to escape from a burning building or our boat capsizes! The optimism of positive valence helps us think a solution is around the corner. But our valence effect can be used to fool us.
How much does valence impact us?
Although difficult to measure, valence can be determined through micro expressions, barely recognizable facial changes that are basically involuntary unless the person is either a pathological liar or a well-trained actor.
Researchers can detect and measure micro expressions through the use of facial electromyography. Also, the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) has associated facial muscle movement with expressions and is used by animators as well as mental health practitioners. Perhaps one day, this tool could be used to identify whether children who report wrongdoing by a parent, such as in a child custody cases, are speaking the truth or not. Unfortunately, because psychopaths are capable of simulating their own micro expressions, the validity of testing them directly is questionable.
The valence detector
Psychopaths will read your micro expressions as well as your overt expressions. Often people who’ve been victimized by psychopaths recall a sense of having been “stared at,” as they watched carefully for clues. Unfortunately, the absence of a “stare” does not foretell whether the person is on the up-and-up because some predators are simply better at hiding their intense focus than others. Their ability to falsify their own micro expressions provides their target with a sense of positive valence when they should feel negative valence instead.
Liars lie not only with their words, but also with their faces. We can be fooled by their expression and lose sight of the incongruity of their words. If they’re extremely attractive and pleasant to look at, we can be drawn more to their facial cues, rather than the reality their appearance hides from sight. And if they’re flirtatious or seductive, they get our brain chemistry reacting to them in a positive way.
Can you fool them?
Well, would you really want to?
Is it in your best interest to think that every person you meet is out to trip you up? That mentality is a cynical one that can undermine the joy you feel in life. And fooling people, even when it’s for our own protection, makes us as guilty of deception as they are.
Don’t stop being you!
Recognize that emotional predators get easy access to you through websites and an abundance of other means. Be sure you check them out thoroughly before you give your heart away and become emotionally involved with anyone new. Check their ID. Check what people who’ve known them for many years have to say about them. Use internet resources to conduct research. Get a sense of their family and friends BEFORE you have sex with them.
Dr. Paul Ekman is the foremost authority on the phenomenon of facial expression and served as the scientific consultant for the successful TV series “Lie to Me.” He was named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine. His website contains information that can help you become more adept at determining when you are being lied to.
© Copyright, Joyce M. Short- All rights reserved