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A great deal of work has been done categorizing and linking both facial expression and emotion. From Darwin's notions of emotional displays to today's facial recognition software, the notion that one can determine emotional states through facial expression is tantalizing both in terms of pure intellectual interest and in prospective application.In modern-day America, national security demands have created a need for rapid ways to judge the ill intent of a stranger--that is, to profile behavior rather than ethnicity as one means to spot terrorists before they strike. Hence, a great deal of interest has been taken both in biometric facial recognition, to determine if a known bad actor is present, and in behavioral profiling, to determine if an actor is displaying suspicious intent.Of course, the idea of combining facial recognition technology with the ability to read states of mind through is not only interesting for the national security state, but for individuals as well. After all, who would not want to know if he or she were dating a compulsive liar or a blabbermouth? Indeed, a series of apps sold for the iPhone marketed under the name Snap Judgment purport to disclose important information on the photo's subject, such as whether the subject will disclose secrets (or use deodorant). Naturally, the app is marketed "for entertainment purposes" only and comes with an all-capitals disclaimer. This is not surprising. A complex of muscular reactions that add up to a response to being startled, for example, involves seven distinct muscular movements that happen at a rate of 75 milliseconds each. Even for one such response, then, the idea of a still-photography recognition model would seem insufficient. While artists, cartoonists and caricaturists delight in the iconic lexicon of facial expression (wide eyes and an "o"-shaped mouth for example,) the literature tells a much more complex story. The psychological community is divided as to whether facial expressions can indeed be linked to emotional states, and if so, how faithfully and consistently. Some psychologists see the science as plausible, but in need of consideration of cultural and individual difference. Others say that to these considerations we must add context; i.e., we must determine the situation eliciting the response in order to judge the response itself; an anger expression in certain circumstances, for example, might commonly signal fear.The scientific study of facial expression and emotion, then, is not a simple list of correspondences, but an area of research derived from ancient primal behaviors and characterized by series of involuntary reactions over small spans of time. Emotions may vary by individual, culture and context, but their deciphering is not to be entered into lightly.
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