Subliminal Messages, Body Language and Anxiety

Our conscious mind is not capable of registering the expressions and emotions that people display for a short of period of time, but our subconscious mind does take notice of them.

A study has shown that when these expressions on the face of people are interpreted by the subconscious brain, it can issue us suggestions to take a cautious approach. Usually, these suggestions make the person aware of the threats, but may lead to anxiety related diseases if a person is hyper about it.

The study carried out the following experiment. The participants were made to view 70 different expressions made by the people who are surprised. Before each of this face was shown, another image was flashed for a very short period of time, below the threshold of the conscious mind. Some of expressions or “micro-expressions” showed people happy and the rest showed fear on the faces.

This experiment was conducted by Northwestern University neuroscientist Ken Paller and his team. The responses of the brain were recorded with the help of electrodes attached to the scalps of the participants. Though the participants themselves were not aware that they saw any hidden expressions, but the brain did show responses each time a micro expression flashed.

The participants were asked to classify each expression as positive and negative - positive being the expression of pleasant surprise similar to when you meet a friend unexpectedly and negative being of shock such as a bomb blast. It was noted that whenever a negative expression was shown prior to a positive one the participants rated it negative.

Pallers’s teammate Wen Li says,” The experimental results have shown that a signal which is believed to be bad can become dominant and determine the course of actions we are to take”.
The results of the study have been published in the book called ‘Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience’.

Paller says: ” Our perception power is far more powerful than what we believe it to be. It can influence us but usually not to the extent that we will do something uncharacteristic of our personality”.

Prior to beginning the experiment, the volunteers were asked a few questions to gauge their anxiousness, especially during social circumstances. People who were most anxious had the strongest reaction to subliminal expressions which depicted alarm. These are the people whom Paller identified to be extremely susceptible to subtle hints and who may become the victims of over anxiousness.

According to Li these results are significant especially to comprehend psychiatric disorders like phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxiety related disorders.

It remains ambiguous to say if these subliminal expressions can influence us to the extent of affecting our social behavior. Paller says: ” You liking or not liking a particular person is associated to a cause you know, rather than a cause which is subliminal”.

Micro or subliminal expressions are crucial to understand the real motive of a person. All of us make them and it will be helpful to judge a person through these. But Paller suggestions caution saying,” When someone appreciates you, it is advisable to take it without interpreting too much into it”.

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