What we see may depend on how we feel

written by Meena Azzollini

Face with many emotions

Credit:123RF

The way we experience the world is unique to us.

We just don’t react to our environment based on our senses but we construct perceptions of the world based on how we feel.

This is what psychologists from the University of California have discovered.

In this study the researchers wanted to see if changing people’s emotional state outside of conscious awareness might change how they see neutral faces.

Researchers used continuous flash suppression technique to deliver stimuli to 43 participants without them knowing it.

While the face presented to the dominant eye was neutral, the participants tended to choose a smiling face if the image presented to their non-dominant eye was smiling rather than neutral or scowling.

In the first experiment, participants were presented with a series of flashing images which alternated between pixelated and neutral face. This was presented to their dominant eye.

At the same time a low-contrast image of a smiling, scowling or neutral face was presented to their non-dominant eye. Typically this image would be suppressed by the stimulus presented to the dominant eye and the participants will not consciously experience it.

At the end of each trial the participants were presented with five faces and were asked to pick the one that best matched the face they saw during the trial.

While the face presented to the dominant eye was neutral, the participants tended to choose a smiling face if the image presented to their non-dominant eye was smiling rather than neutral or scowling.

In the second experiments the participants were asked to guess the orientation of the suppressed face – the one shown to the non-dominant eye. Those who guessed the orientation better were chosen for the subsequent analyses. The results of this experiment indicated that unseen positive faces changes the perception of the visible neutral face.

The participants saw a neutral face as smiling more when it was paired with an unseen positive image as shown by both the experiments.

The study shows that what we see is not a direct reflection of the world. It is a mental representation of the world affected by our emotional experiences.

What we see in our world and how we experience it depends on our emotional state at any given moment.

That’s why positive emotions contribute to positive experiences.

One way to live positively is to attain a state of positive emotions by living your life the fullest , by handling fears and negativity and by gaining a new perspective on things. Your emotions are the key to how you perceive your life and how you live it.

Source: Psychological Science


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!