Why you’re having a hard time reading your coworkers’ emotions lately

A critical way we maintain relationships is by being in tune with others—reading facial expressions, interpreting emotions, and responding. But this has been tough over the last year. We haven’t seen each other as much, so we may be out of practice. Moreover, mask mandates have been integral to public health but affected how we read emotions. The eyes may be the “windows of the soul,” but over the last year or so, we’ve learned, eye contact alone doesn’t tell the whole story.

This is to say communicating feels different when portions of our faces are covered. But in the same way we are coming back from the pandemic, we can also renew our appreciation for the facial expressions and body language signs that helped build relationships and rapport. In particular, smiling has intriguing implications. Challenges of reading emotions

Even in the best of circumstances, reading facial expressions is tough. Computer experts have even struggled to develop an algorithm that does it successfully. And despite the fact that facial responses are innate and automatic, the average person is often wrong about how they interpret expressions, or they are unaware of them. In addition, people interpret facial cues based on their own unique perspectives, which introduces even more variability into the process.

Our interpretation is also dulled when we can’t see a whole face. This is true when we’re wearing masks, but also when we’re wearing sunglasses and when we see faces from a distance or through a brief glance. A study by the University of Wisconsin found children struggled to identify expressions. When faces were covered with masks, they correctly identified sadness only about 28% of the time, anger 27%, and fear 18%. How to successfully sync up

Reading others’ expressions allows us to empathize and relate to the people around us. And human connection is critical to our well-being. We are hardwired to connect with others. In fact, a study by the Basque Centre on Cognition, Brain, and Language found when people were in conversations with others, their brain waves mirrored each other. In addition, we have an instinct to mimic facial expressions, which helps us experience and identify with others’ feelings, according to a research by the University of Wisconsin . We crave relationships, and seeing and interpreting signals from each other are important ways we form bonds.

There may also be a genetic component to the way we relate. According to research from Northwestern University , people’s ability to quickly recognize emotions was partly based on genetics, and those who recognized others’ emotions also expressed their own emotions more quickly; consequently, there is a reciprocal relationship between expressing and interpreting emotion. More research from University of Birmingham shows the […]

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Prof Narayanan's Research Teaches AI To Find Anyone's Emotional State By Voice

Prof Narayanan’s Research Teaches AI To Find Anyone’s Emotional State By Voice

Human voice is a rich medium with which we not only communicate our wants and needs and intent but it’s also a very special way of expressing our emotions and identity in emerging times where AI is increasingly becoming part of our lives, people want to use that to interact with other digital systems not only for transactional purposes, such as asking about weather, but more so as a social companion for elderly Human speech is rather special as it carries information about our intent, emotions, identity and several other data, like our health state A true AI system, therefore, should not only recognise the intonational properties of human speech, the words we speak and the way we interact but also take into account the nonverbal cues It’s almost like a painting, where we mix different basic colours to create a landscape with different possibilities.

Shrikanth Narayanan is a Professor at the University of Southern California and an interdisciplinary engineer-scientist with a focus on human-centered signal processing and machine intelligence as well as informatics with speech and spoken language processing at its core.

A prolific award-winning researcher, educator and inventor, with hundreds of publications to his credit, his work translates to using speech and audio to identify mental health and wellness issues, analyzing the health and stress level of workers and developing AI tools for understanding how stories are told in film and TV from a social lens. Flickr So sit back, plug in your headphones, tune in to your favourite lo-fi channel and read on this interesting conversation that we had with Professor Narayanan.

What do we understand about voice as a medium of communication in the age of AI?

Human voice is a rich medium with which we not only communicate our wants and needs and intent but it’s also a very special way of expressing our emotions and identity. And spoken language in humans is particularly remarkable. It allows us to easily communicate all our thoughts, ideas and desires through voice; and in emerging times where AI is increasingly becoming part of our lives, people want to use that to interact with other digital systems not only for transactional purposes, such as asking about weather, but more so as a social companion for elderly and learning systems for children. Representative image While today’s AI like Echo, Siri and Google Assistant does an outstanding job of word recognition and analysis, its dependence on speech alone is an inherent limitation–it, kind of, seems mechanical. When can we have an AI system that is truly capable of sensing and reacting to a user’s emotions?

Human speech is rather special as it carries information about our intent, emotions, identity and several […]

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Is Your House a Pressure Cooker? How To Fight Less And Reduce Family Conflicts

Are you more polite/considerate/presentable/tidier/ in public or at home with family?  

Amazingly, many people treat complete strangers better than they treat their own spouse or children. We blurt out hurtful comments, leave a mess, expect 24/7 help and behave in ways we wouldn’t dare with people who care less about us and people who should matter less than those closest to us.  As important as it is to treat others well, it’s even more important to treat those we love better.

Home should be a safe harbor, but unless you live alone, you’ll inevitably get into arguments at home.  The trick is to learn how to reduce family conflicts, negotiate effectively and show appreciation frequently.  We decide what goals, relationships or vices we nurture with how we spend our time each day.  I discussed self-discipline and time-management in the blog post, Wield the Power of Discipline Towards Your Goal. Make sure you invest enough time creating shared experiences with your spouse and children to deepen your family ties.

Boost Communication Skills To Reduce Conflicts

Most family conflicts are rooted in miscommunication, so developing communication skills and finding out how each member of your family prefers to communicate help to improve your family dynamics. (Plus taking personality quizzes is fun!)  During difficult conversations, a good tip is to respond by repeating what the other person has said so there’s no doubt about their intended meaning. This simple step improves communication in multiple ways.  First, no two people have exactly the same life experiences and perspectives, and no matter how well you know your spouse/parent/child, don’t assume you know exactly how they feel and communicate 100% of the time.  The second benefit of this communication tip lies in our need to connect.   People often communicate to get recognition and acceptance of how they feel, and the simple act of repeating what they have said is the best support you can offer.

Quiz Cat: No Quiz found

Eyeroll, contemptuous glance, dismissive smirk…  Our non-verbal communication matters just as much as what we say.  So be mindful of your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.  When you speak in a kind tone, arguments are less likely to start. You can further improve your family’s communication by letting everyone know that all feelings are ok but not all behaviors are.  Feelings are just one of our senses just like sight and touch.  Not much good comes from trying to dispute how another person feels.  But we do have a choice in how we think, express and do about our emotions.  Make your home a safe harbor for your entire family by keeping communication open and building trust.  When in doubt, give each the benefit of the doubt.

How to Negotiate Well

Why do fights/conflicts/arguments occur? They happen when someone’s needs aren’t being met.  So when arguments do arise, focus on the purpose and root cause of the arguments.  You can boost communications skills to avoid miscommunication and conflicts.

  1. Clear Request  

Household arguments often escalate and go on and on because there are no clear requests. One person dishes out one complaint after another while the person on the receiving end gets defensive and responds with insults or attacks.  When you complain, make sure to let the other person know what you want.  Here is a system that you may want to try:

It bugs me when you ____________________.  I wish you would ________________________.

  1. Time out! 

Take a step back if it becomes a shouting match with one insult after another. Ask for five minutes to think about what’s already been said.   When people disagree, it’s easy to turn confrontational, competitive and escalate trivial disagreements into power struggles.  A short time out can remind you that you love each other not enemies to conquer.  Agree as a household that it’s ok to have a time out during arguments. 

Bravely Apologize.  Weak communicators sometimes argue, insult and yell as a form of reaching out for help.   Remember conflicts occur only when needs are unmet. You may have said or done something unknowingly that hurt the other person through no fault of your own. Listen to the other person’s side of the story before jumping to defend yourself.  If apologies are due, be brave enough to apologize.  

Tips specific to reducing conflicts between your kids.

1.     Avoid comparing your children.  Kids are always on the lookout for any signs of unfairness so don’t give them a chance!   Be sure to let your children know how special they are. They’re individuals and should be treated that way

2.     Establish boundaries and household responsibilities. This will let them know what’s expected of them. Include rules about how they should treat one another. Let them know that hitting and name-calling are off limits in your home. Decide as a family what the consequences will be if they break the rules. 

3.     Give each child 1-on-1 attention. Sibling rivalry usually stems from perceived favoritism and trying to get more of their parent’s attention and love.

Consider taking each of your children on their own “dates.”  Children want to feel special and crave your attention.  Your dates don’t need to be extravagant.  Even a walk in the park followed by a treat will be treasured by your child when you let them know this date is JUST for them.  Invent your own special ritual. If you reinforce to each child that they’re special and that you love them, they’ll have less reason for arguing and more reason to dwell in the family’s love.

In the long run, we each have the power to decide whether or not to argue. If you decide that you won’t be dragged into an argument, the argument will often end of its own accord.