Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Recognizing facial expressions without the capacity to produce them -- Moebius Syndrome
Former TB West grad student, now Rotman Institute faculty member Brad Buchsbaum, pointed me to this interesting NY Times article on Moebius Syndrome, a congenital disorder that causes facial paralysis. Much of the article focuses on the social impact of the inability to express emotions on the face. Of particular interest here however, is the reference in the article to a new study by Kathleen Rivas Bogart and David Matsumoto on the recognition of emotional facial expression by people with Moebius syndrome. These authors report no difference between individuals with Moebius syndrome and controls in the ability to recognize emotional facial expressions. This reinforces what we've been saying here for a long time now, that in contrast to the central claim of mirror neuron theorists, you don't need to be capable of generating an action to recognize/understand that action in others.