I finished reading part 1.
This chapter brings up some very interesting thoughts, and some big challenges to how I thought emotion recognition “aught” to be done. I originally thought that computers should work the way we do - recognizing what little emotion we can recognize simply by nontactile means. This, of course, is very limiting and with the increasing ubiquity and portability of computers, not necessarily required (hey, if we can cheat, lets! Movies are only 32 frames a second, after all).
In particular, the chapter raises the problems of culture, gender, age, and knowledge of the observer (read: inhibition) — essentially, to sum all of these, context — in affecting how people express emotions and how to interpret what is eventually expressed. The solution the chapter proposes is similar to how voice recognition has made it’s life easier - by focusing on a single person, training it to recognize a single person’s emotions.
Then the chapter noted how cognition futzes with our emotions. For example, the person who’s hot and irritable gets hit in the back of the legs really hard. Upon turning around, feeling all mad, he discovers it was a woman in a wheelchair who lost control, and doesn’t feel mad anymore. The chapter introduces the idea of primary and secondary emotions, or as I like to think of them, tier one and tier two emotions. Tier one emotions are the knee-jerk “emotions” - fear, quick anger, startle, etc. Tier two emotions are the ones that come only with a little bit of thought - grief, slow anger, sorrow, contentment, etc.
It occurred to me, thinking about the question of “why have emotions” that perhaps there are two different reasons, depending on the tier. Tier one seems to obviously be some sort of cognitive shortcut (as it happens without cognitive intervention, as a result of physical somatic responses), to help in survival instincts. Tier two, however, seems more tied to learning than anything else (there was an example in the book of a man who could not experience tier two emotions, and as a result could not learn from his mistakes). Of course, this learning introduces the deadening effect (if you are exposed to a given stimulus too much) and the possibility for emotional detachment - something which doesn’t seem so possible with the primary emotions. Think of, for example, the emotions you are able to suppress when giving a scholarly presentation, and which emotions you would not be able to suppress.
As far as emotion detection goes, I noted from one of their examples that the subtleties involved in emotional perception really make all the difference. For example, something as minute as a person’s gait, or something akin to a quick twinkle in their eye may completely invert our perception of the person’s emotional state.
Then a fair bit of the chapter was devoted to things that seemed ancillary, like the observations that positive emotions help creativity, and the observations that willfull emotional expression and pure emotional expression take different routes through the brain (e.g. brain damage patients who can smile at a joke, but not on command, and vice versa). One interesting conclusion they didn’t specifically state but seems obvious is that sympathy seems to stem from the way we remember things - we remember happy memories easier when in a good mood, and vice versa, thus, when a friend is in trouble we can more easily think of times when we were in trouble.