Emotions change with direction

1 min read

Fear depends on where you look at it, researchers find

If someone looks directly at you with an angry expression, you usually assume that person is mad at you. If she or he looks away, you become unsure. The person may be angry with someone or something else. In the latter case, the emotional part of your brain shows more activity. With fear, it’s the opposite. When someone with a scared expression looks away, you assume that person is gazing at whatever is scary. Your brain doesn’t become as active as when the person looks directly at you. He or she might fear you, or not. You don’t have any information about the source of the fear and your brain has a stronger reaction. In a first-of-its-kind-study, Reginald Adams, a Harvard psychologist, and his colleagues demonstrated this by scanning the brains of 11 people while they viewed images of fearful and angry faces. The result raises the question of why the brain gets more excited when people look afraid of you than when they look angry with you. Why would an averted gaze of anger produce more activity in the fear region of you brain than a direct expression of rage?