- Understanding what others are feeling, thinking and wanting is essential to successful social interaction.
- We sense the emotions of others by combining disparate clues: expressions, gestures, body posture, tone of voice and even odor.
- Scientists have fingered brain regions that integrate disparate sensory signals that may be associated with a particular person or scene.
When someone approaches you to ask, “What’s wrong?” you know that you are broadcasting unhappiness, whether or not you said a word. Perhaps it was a grimace or your sluggish gait that conveyed the message. You cannot help but communicate your mood to colleagues, neighbors and fellow commuters through numerous subtle cues.
Sensing the emotional states of others is an important part of social interaction. If you could not do this well, you might end up incongruously slapping the back of a person who is teary or stopping an anxious co-worker on his way to a meeting. People with autism and schizophrenia find it virtually impossible to detect other people’s feelings and as a result have extreme difficulty relating to others.