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Critical Analysis Of Micro Expressions Philosophy Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The episode introduces us to the concept of micro-expressions. The episode depicts that micro-expressions can help us read a person better, as in gauge their reactions in a much better manner. But before that first let us understand micro-expressions. They are tiny infinitesimal facial tells and twitches that occur just for a part of a second and are not visible to the eye. A person can be trained to look for them or can become naturally trained and honed to catch them. The episode emphasises on this in a very clear manner in the scene where the main character Lightman goes through a security check and flashes a partial fear expression to show a TSA Agent working there that he has something to hide. The TSA Agent who catches him turns out to be a natural at deception detection. Deception detection is all about body language, facial expressions and little reflexes that are so inherent in us that we are incapable of stopping them, making them almost involuntary.

The episode involves different facets of Human Psychology. The characters read, through their knowledge of micro-expressions, meanings into the actions of the people around them. The show emphasises on the fact that there are certain tells of the face and body that are common to all, in a scene Lightman shows certain pictures of people showing the same expression to a class that he is teaching, there he shows them a video of a suspected bomber who he foiled by reading his expressions. He throws a book at a person sitting in the audience and says real surprise lasts infinitesimally.

The saying eyes are a window to our souls may or may not be true but our face and body does form a window to our mind. If by reading someone’s face we can actually tell what they are thinking it can come in real use when we try to understand Human Psychology. A compulsive liar may be very good at telling lies but he or she will not be free from these tells. During the episode we see many of our basic and common beliefs about liars and lying to be false, for example when Lightman interrogates a juvenile suspect in the episode he specifies that he was not lying when he was looking away while trying to remember a certain event. Another character raises the question isn’t that a “tell” for a lie, however that is not true.

In Psychology we read about questionnaires targeted to understand the personality of a person and different techniques to unravel someone’s nature and mind by putting them through a polygraph test, and sometimes by just reading into their responses. Both tests are successful with the polygraph being very reliable (though at times it might give a false positive due emotional reaction to certain situations and questions that create the same effect as and when we are lying) to check the veracity of the statement made by people. The other test targets the way one thinks, this method mixes both the procedures up without actually requiring a person to go through a polygraph. A polygraph at times would require a person’s consent and when that is not given we cannot know if what they are saying is true or not. In such a situation this method would reap many rewards by helping solve cases that are not solved due to rights that each individual has against self-incrimination. For example in the beginning during the interview with the bomber the lawyer representing the bomber says that his client is not going to speak at all but by asking at first general questions and establishing a base line for his responses then narrowing them down by watching the bombers natural micro-expressions Lightman was able to find out his next target.

The episode highlighted other facets of human nature like shame and religion. How they motivate us to act. The juvenile delinquent who was in a life and death situation but he refused to clear his name in the murder of his teacher as he felt ashamed of his biological drive where he was sexually attracted to his teacher. Here the parents of the accused followed their social drive and refused to acknowledge a perfectly natural instinct of a teenager. They tried to bury that because their idea of what is socially acceptable made them do something and hide the truth that we, while watching the episode found very unreasonable. However to them it was a completely rational choice. This whole situation shows us what sort of different motives different people have, their shame and guilt made them refuse to clear the matter which could save the life of their son. Here their belief in religion and the concept of having sexual urges and acting on it being a deviance of the worst kind played a major role in their refusal to protect themselves here the social motive of acceptance among the community was more. Their perception that the act of autoeroticism was considered to be a sin bigger than murder by the society also played a role. In another situation a political aspirant gave up his whole well established career to protect his daughter who he felt he let down all her life. The motivations of the teenage female witness who was having an affair with the principal of the school and to protect him she was willing to conceal his involvement in the events. However, she also feels guilty over the fact that she is letting someone else take the blame. Here the conflict between negative and positive motives is clearly bringing in an approach-avoidance situation. Her guilt however overcomes her reticence to implicate her lover when she believed the accused juvenile to have committed suicide. Here the Freudian concept of Super-ego comes into play as she finally does what she believes to be the right thing.

The principal took the risk of murdering the teacher as she was a threat to his well established life. He did not have the intention to murder her at first, but he developed that intention and committed the crime because there was benefit in it for him. The five stages of moral reasoning say that a person may commit crime if they believe that they might get away with it. They may commit crime if they gain something by it which is more fruitful than the risk involved. It helps them protect their relationships. A crime is justified if it is justifiable to the society. And when the crime serves a higher purpose like it is for the benefit of the society. Here, for the principal the fact that he would be able to protect himself from facing the consequence of his affair with a student was more than the risk of his being caught and convicted for the murder of the teacher. He made a choice which was rational as per his own moral reasoning.

Here, emotions are a very important player in the whole process as they are the reason why the tells appear and by reading those tells the investigators are able to understand what the witnesses are feeling and by understanding those feelings and playing at them they are able to arrive at the truth. However the show also portrays how emotions may cloud ones judgement. The best example is when Dr. Gillian Foster a colleague of Lightman is unable to read that her husband is lying to her which the TSA Agent who has been recruited is able to pick up very quickly. Though it is debatable whether she noticed it and ignored the fact that he lied or was blinded by her feelings is another question, the fact remains, that she is emotionally involved either way.

The important factor here is that the choices that we make are not that straight forward and that there are motives behind our motives. And all these are related to our emotions is the clear message that the show sends out. The examination of a subjects mind by the new tool of micro-expressions which helps make Psychology more exact by the science of facial expressions is the underlying theme of this show. This show is based on the work done by Dr. Paul Ekman who is the real pioneer of micro-expressions.


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