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Why We Cannot Always Read People?

reading people's mind

Why We Cannot Always Read People?

Have you ever had a hard time trying to figure out if someone is mad or sad?
Have you ever thought someone was flirting with you when they were just being friendly?
Have you ever felt like you are the only one you know who cannot always read someone’s emotions?

It is normal to be wary of interpreting emotion because you are only human. Furthermore, as human beings, we need to socialize with other people, which means communicating verbally and nonverbally. There is so much that goes into expressing emotion. and it is nonverbal, so naturally, there are things that can get confusing. We are all pretty good at detecting the six universal emotions: happiness, disgust, fear, surprise, sadness, and anger, but what about secondary emotions, such as embarrassment, pride, pain, shame, guilt, etc.?

Why People Misunderstand Each Other?

We have trouble interpreting emotion because of affect blend, which is when one emotion is being shown on one side of the face. while another feels is being offered on either side of the face (Aronson). According to the “Cortical Systems for the Recognition of Emotion in Facial Expressions” experiment, our brain uses both sides to interpret emotion. 
Additionally, they found that no matter which side of the brain had damage, participants could still recognize happiness. 

However, they found that only participants with the right side of their brain-damaged had difficulty recognizing negative emotions. especially fear (Adolphs). Therefore, if someone has had brain damage to their right side of their brain, they might have trouble recognizing some emotions.
Along with those findings, it has also been proven that some patients with certain types of psychiatric disorders like autism have difficulty interpreting emotions as well (Nolen).

learn to read people

Another reason people might misinterpret emotion is because of culture. For example, in American culture, men are taught to not emotional states like crying, while women are often taught to show more happiness and smile.
In Japanese culture, people are taught to show far less facial expressions than American culture, and women are taught to hide their smiles and laughter (Aronson).

Lastly, people might have trouble interpreting emotion because some people may have different schemas about how to show specific emotions. Schemas are cognitive concepts that help us organize information to help us analyze the world around us. For example, if someone grows up thinks that a person must have their eyes wide open to show surprise, may always confuse shock with fear because they are only looking at their eyes.


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