Today, Earth welcomes back Cmdr Chris Hadfield who touched many people, not only Canadians with his tweets and Youtube videos from board of the International Space Station (ISS). One of the last things Cmdr Hadfield did was to post a very cool rendition of David Bowie's Space Oddity. The music was recorded on earth and the singing on board of the ISS. The text is slightly altered from the original and rarely has this song been so relevant than here with Cmdr Hadfield leaving the ISS just a few hours later - looking one last time at Earth from that perspective ...
I must admit, it brought a few tears to my eyes. The video was powerful - the music has so many associations for me, it was a particular moment in time that would never come back (you can do something for the first time only once). So why were there tears?
Crying has been one of the interesting riddles - what is the function of crying? What is the evolutionary perspective on crying? Is crying good for you or bad for you?
As it turns out, there are no easy answers. Darwin already was not completely sure what do with crying. Quote from Darwin (1872)
(p. 172) In considering how far this view is probable, we should bear in mind that the eyes of infants have been acted on in this double manner during numberless generations, whenever they have screamed; and on the principle of nerve-force readily passing along accustomed channels, even a moderate compression of the eyeballs and a moderate distension of the ocular vessels would ultimately come, through habit, to act on the glands. We have an analogous case in the orbicular muscles being almost always contracted in some slight degree, even during a gentle crying-fit, when there can be no
(p. 173) distension of the vessels and no uncomfortable sensation excited within the eyes.
Moreover, when complex actions or movements have long been performed in strict association together, and these are from any cause at first voluntarily and afterwards habitually checked, then if the proper exciting conditions occur, any part of the action or movement which is least under the control of the will, will often still be involuntarily performed. The secretion by a gland is remarkably free from the influence of the will; therefore, when with the advancing age of the individual, or with the advancing culture of the race, the habit of crying out or screaming is restrained, and there is consequently no distension of the blood-vessels of the eye, it may nevertheless well happen that tears should still be secreted. We may see, as lately remarked, the muscles round the eyes of a person who reads a pathetic story, twitching or trembling in so slight a degree as hardly to be detected. In this case there has been no screaming and no distension of the blood-vessels, yet through habit certain nerve-cells send a small amount of nerve-force to the cells commanding the muscles round the eyes; and they likewise send some to the cells commanding the lacrymal glands, for the eyes often become at the same time just moistened with tears. If the twitching of the muscles round the eyes and the secretion of tears had been completely prevented, nevertheless it is almost certain that there would have been some tendency to transmit nerve-force in these same directions; and as the lacrymal glands are remarkably free from the control of the will, they would be eminently liable still to act, thus betraying, though there were no other outward signs, the pathetic thoughts which were passing through the person's mind.
So the idea here is that forceful crying in the infant leads via mechanical reasons to the secretion of tears. Over time particular situations get associated with this type of fit, which in turn gets more and more controlled in the adult and so crying when adults are sad is a sort of remnant of this process. You can read the argument in more detail here
Since then many researchers have studied the mechanics and chemistry of crying and tears. It is still a complicated story though ... is it satisfying? Can it cope with sentimental crying? What about crying for joy?
One of the key researchers on crying is Ad Vingerhoets
from Tilburg University. Here is a brief article from the Guardian
that refers also to Ad's recent book Why only humans weep
I have also tried my hand at the topic
, but then - Ad's books are probably the best place to start ...
In the meanwhile - Cmdr Hadfield answers the question what happens to tears in space ...
Darwin, C. (1872). The expression of the emotions in man and animals. London, UK: Murray.
Kappas, A. (2009). Mysterious tears. The phenomenon of crying from the perspective of social neuroscience. In: Thorsten Fögen (ed.), Tears in the Graeco-Roman World (pp. 419-438) , Berlin & New York,: DeGruyter.
I decided to start a second blog that focuses on Affective Computing. It is called Affective Computing Science
and it will be a bit more technical and also contain links and or comments in that special field.
The ironic thing is of course that I do not have enough time for this blog, but then ... it is a challenge ... :-)
This will focus on making machines more emotional or deal in more intelligent ways with human emotions. Check it out ...
Wow, it has been so long that I wrote something! Not for a lack of topics, but simply because I felt there was too much to do. Perhaps I should write about the feeling of too much to do ;-)In the meanwhile, I can tell with happiness and pride that the book I edited with Nicole Krämer from Uni Duisburg-Essen is finally out. That is, it is already out in Europe - in the US it will be towards the end of July, 2011.
Face-to-Face Communication over the Internet
Emotions in a Web of Culture, Language, and TechnologySocial platforms such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have rekindled the initial excitement of cyberspace. Text-based, computer-mediated communication has been enriched with face-to-face communication such as Skype, as users move from desktops to laptops with integrated cameras and related hardware. Age, gender and culture barriers seem to have crumbled and disappeared as the user base widens dramatically. Other than simple statistics relating to e-mail usage, chatrooms and blog subscriptions, we know surprisingly little about the rapid changes taking place. This book assembles leading researchers on nonverbal communication, emotion, cognition and computer science to summarize what we know about the processes relevant to face-to-face communication as it pertains to telecommunication, including video-conferencing. The authors take stock of what has been learned regarding how people communicate, in person or over distance, and set the foundations for solid research helping to understand the issues, implications and possibilities that lie ahead.
Aftermath of the tragedy at Loveparade in Duisburg, Germany, July 24, 2010, Image Globovision. Licensed under common license http://www.flickr.com/photos/globovision/4824530153/ original caption: Trabajadores sanitarios trasladan a una persona herida tras una estampida provocada por un pánico colectivo en el túnel de acceso a la antigua estación de mercancías de Duisburgo, donde se celebraba la fiesta de música electrónica "Loveparade"
Time flies. The last post I wrote was before the final of the world cup. The goal of the last post was to point out how some of the key concepts of emotion theories often focus on the individual and neglect the complex interplay of individuals with networks of family, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers, both in real interactions and in implied, implicit ways.
I was very happy to receive both emails, and comments via the blog, pointing out that social processes play a role. Indeed - this is the thrust of my argument. concepts such as "relevance" can only explain so much ... In a public situation, after the win of the team, one can think in addition to what I outlined hte last time of comparison processes (if everybody is excited, it probably is exciting, even if I am not sure), to very low-level processes of contagion that follow from the perception of others around us. Feedback processes at multiple levels.
And now for a harsh switch of valence - from euphoria to hysteria.
Yesterday evening, I watched, on television and the Internet, as did many in Germany, events as the tragedy of Duisburg started to unfold. All the while the techno beat was still pounding and lights were flashing with hundreds of thousands of fans apparently unaware of the carnage just a few stone throws away. It is clear that the causes of the event are manifold and now, with hindsight, it appears that bad decisions with regard to the planning might have contributed to the sequence of events. However, one thing is sure - lots of people in a tight space, pushing and shoving, in the heat, played a big role. Did we really witness a stampede? Whenever we talk or think about crowd behavior the question is whether "the crowd" really exists. Does the crowd have a mind? Surely it does not have a (single) brain. The concept of the crowd is a very difficult one when trying to describe behavior in human - whether it relates to offline or online behavior (see CYBEREMOTIONS:EU).
In my mind bridging the analysis of the behavior of individuals and the behavior of large
groups of individuals in real time is one of the major challenges for social psychology today.
Scientists from many disciplines are trying to observe, describe, predict, and modify panic behavior as one of the most destructive "mass" behaviors. Here is a link from an Australian TV program, CATALYST
. The hope is that research bridging biology, psychology, mathematics, and even physics can help to prevent catastrophes
, such as the one in Duisburg yesterday.
This week I attended
of Die Große Show der Naturwunder
in Freiburg. There will be a segment on felt and false
smiles. This is a very interesting topic of course. Going back to Duchenne
, we know that crows feet wrinkles can make the difference between a smile that looks "real" and one that does not
. As it turns out, there is considerable empirical evidence that smiles showing this feature - it involves the contraction of the muscle orbicularis oculi
are more likely to occur when somebody is indeed happy or amused, but that does not mean that all smiles with the wrinkles are genuine, and all smiles without are fake - just that the probability is higher. Other features that have been suggested to differ between posed and felt smiles relate to the timing - how long does it take for the smile to hit its maximum, or apex, how long does it stay there, how fast for it to disappear. It has also been suggested that felt smiles are more symmetrical than post ones. However, for this feature the empirical evidence is weakest. Some critical evidence regarding the differences of "felt" and "false" smiles has recently been presented by my colleagues Eva Krumhuber and Tony Manstead
The show will be transmitted on July 1, 2010 at 20:15 in ARD