It looks like taking a sick day may get a lot harder. A UC San Diego research team says computer programs can tell the difference between genuine pain and fake pain a lot better than human beings:
They note that in social species like humans, faces have evolved to show valuable information in social contexts, and this includes expressions of emotions and pain.
However, “humans can simulate facial expressions and fake emotions well enough to deceive most observers,” says Prof. Kang Lee, senior author from the University of Toronto.
According to the study, there are two motor pathways in the brain that control facial movement:
- Subcortical extrapyramidal motor system – which drives spontaneous facial expressions of felt emotions
- Cortical pyramidal motor system – which controls voluntary (faked) facial expressions.
While humans are unable to consistently spot the subtle differences between the two, the team says a computer can.
“The computer system managed to detect distinctive dynamic features of facial expressions that people missed,” says Marian Bartlett, lead author from UCSD. “Human observers just aren’t very good at telling real from faked expressions of pain.”