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[Xmca-l] Re: What Faces Can't Tell Us


Your concern here reminds me of the issue that John Lucy raises with the
use of Munsell color chips to determine whether one's language affects
one's perception of color. In his essay "The Linguistics of 'color'", John
argues that using Munsell chips is problematic because it inscribes "color"
as THE domain to be perceived when, in fact, many of the languages of the
world include other qualia in their color terms. Thus, by limiting the
respondents' options to just the Munsell array, one is categorically ruling
out possible relativity effects of languages that are different from our
own in the way that they slice up the world.

Here are John's words (better than mine but also a bit longer):
"This array consisted of a selection from a set of Munsell color samples
which varied on hue, saturation, and brightness. As a representative of
everyday contexts, the array was very restricted, both in its exclusive
focus on color and in the kinds of colors presented (e.g., including no
variation in luster, luminosity, or reflectance). In a sense, the stimulus
array dictated in advance the possible meanings the terms could have since
no other meanings were embodied in the samples. Although restricted in this
way, the stimulus array was also very complex, and the labeling task
performed with it forced informants to make referential microcomparisons
and judgments of a sort rarely encountered in daily life. The task assumed
that speech is about labeling accuracy rather than situational
intelligibility..." (p. 323)

It is possible that these lab studies of emotion are onto something, but it
seems that one would want to see ethnographic work that explores what terms
people in these cultures use and, more importantly, how they actually USE
these terms as they go about their daily lives. But that is a much bigger


On Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 4:50 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:

> Briefly, my beef comes from the interpretation of a response to a facial
> expression outside the context of how such an expression might
> authentically be generated in response to something real. Maybe it's just
> my own difficulty in reading social cues as a high-functioning Asperger's
> case, and the problems that are exacerbated by the decontextualization of
> the expressions in a lab setting.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of mike cole
> Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2014 9:01 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What Faces Can't Tell Us
> Peter. "The lab" ? Ruled out?
> I read Martin as saying that context and interpretation would be central.
> Is it this particular study you are apparently disagreeing about?  He says
> its better than universalism (a la Ekman, I assume). No 'round here more
> sensitive to issues of experimental (laboratory?) studies and cross
> cultural research so I am a little lost.
> I have not had a chance to read John Shotter's piece that Larry sent and
> wants to discuss. I am assuming they are part of the same discussion.Is
> that supposition correct?
> I am a little confused. What is at issue here?
> Help gratefully accepted.
> mike
> On Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 3:03 AM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:
> > I don't think the only alternative to universals is a different form
> > of individualized, acontextual inferencing. There's no effort to
> > understand how the "subjects" from tribal societies came to form their
> > responses. I don't see the lab as having any potential for a
> > cultural-historical approach.
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: xmca-l-bounces+smago=uga.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
> > xmca-l-bounces+smago=uga.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Martin
> > xmca-l-bounces+John
> > Packer
> > Sent: Sunday, March 02, 2014 7:17 PM
> > To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> > Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: What Faces Can't Tell Us
> >
> > On Mar 2, 2014, at 1:55 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@UGA.EDU> wrote:
> >
> > > If faces do not "speak for themselves," how do we manage to "read"
> > > other
> > people? The answer is that we don't passively recognize emotions but
> > actively perceive them, drawing heavily (if unwittingly) on a wide
> > variety of contextual clues -- a body position, a hand gesture, a
> > vocalization, the social setting and so on.
> >
> > Peter, can you say more about why this bothered you? Yes, it's
> > laboratory research, but personally I find these conclusions more
> > convincing than the notion that there is a universal code of facial
> muscle movements.
> >
> > Martin
> >
> >
> >
> >

Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Anthropology
883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
Status: O