Emotional Expression and the Body

There is a relatively new idea in Western science called “Embodied Cognition”. It purports the idea that the body and mind influence each other rather than the mind being separate from the body. As obvious as this is, I imagine it will take some time before it is generally recognized that the body and mind are, in large part, extensions of each other. The scientific community has already taken small steps in this direction, like the recognition that mindful meditation and exercise have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood.

This morning I was reading about the role facial expressions and body language affect how we both feel and interpret emotions. Often times psychologists will use facial cards to help children with AU or ASD to practice recognizing non verbal emotional cues. While this can be helpful it ignores a couple of things:

1) Can the child move their own facial muscles into recognizable emotions?

2) How does an emotion show itself through the whole body?

Being able to move facial muscles helps your body feel different emotions. Many kids I work with have the same expression for the six basic emotions. For example, disgust and anger look the same, as do surprise, scared and happy. To help kiddos expand their emotional vocabulary we work on expanding their physical vocabulary of facial and body expressions. Not only does this help them better recognize the emotions in others, but it also helps them improve their own personal emotional feedback.

Here are some links on the subject for those who are interested:

A Brief Guide to Embodied Cognition:

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/11/04/a-brief-guide-to-embodied-cognition-why-you-are-not-your-brain/

A Set of Full Body Movement Features for Emotion Recognition to Help Children Affected By Autism Spectrum Disorder

http://www.fdg2013.org/program/workshops/papers/IDGEI2013/idgei2013_4.pdf

Facial Expressions Control Emotions:

http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/02/01/facial-expressions-control-emotions/11082.html

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