Monday, December 19, 2011

Reading the Mind in the Eyes

They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. I think this is mostly poetic hyperbole. I do believe that eyes are the windows to the emotions, or lack thereof.

Recently I've received a lot of mail inquiring about the capacity for empathy in Borderline Personality Disorder. This is a subject I find fascinating. So what is Empathy? Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another sapient or semi-sapient being.

Borderlines are often credited with being hypersensitive and with having the ability to be keenly aware of another person’s emotional state. Unfortunately we also have a tendency to personalize the emotions we read in other people and project what they are feeling onto ourselves. So I guess that makes us very perceptive but leaves something to be desired in our interpretation.  

Before I begin though, I'd like you to take this test.

It’s called Reading the Mind in the Eyes’. It measures the capacity to discriminate the mental state of others from expressions in the eye region of the face.

It’s hypothesized that those with Borderline Personality Disorder have an advantage in reading the expressions displayed on a person’s face. The average score for a typically empathic person (Non-BPD) on this test is 26.2.

I scored 31. Not perfect, but above average.

So tell me. How do you Score?


21 comments:

  1. I didn't realize you could zoom until i was already partway into the partway into the test.

    Still got a 33. Little frightening.

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  2. 34 & I've been considering myself bad at reading people lately. That gave me a little confidence.. as annoying as the BPD connection is.

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  3. Any clue what the standard deviation is? 36 seems like a small sample

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  4. I'm not sure what the standard deviation is.

    Though I do know that specifically in regards to BPD, the less emotionally turbulent we are when we take the test, the better our results should be (which also means I probably shouldn't be bothering with this right now - stupid turbulence).

    36 is a small sample but this is a test of the more subtle and neutral emotions. You'll notice there weren't samples of things like Joy, Fury, Astonishment, etc. The emotions chosen were nuanced and require a deeper 'empathic' understanding to determine. Supposedly.

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  5. I found a study (Fertuck, Jekal, et al - pdf available via Google Scholar) comparing performance in this test of individuals with BPD to control. Their SD is pretty high (BPD mean=28.5, SD=3.3 / control mean=25, SD=3.63), but they have decent standard errors.

    I think you make a good point about nuances. I didn't find the test difficult, but I do think I'd have a hard time picking out the accurate emotion if it were not in a list of four. I don't know if this speaks to my emotional ignorance or the nature of the emotional spectrum (irritability vs. agitation, bewilderment vs. confusion, concern vs. empathy). Likely the latter. Perhaps context is needed for that type of refinement.

    Thanks for posting about this test. I look forward to reading your thoughts on empathy. :)

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  6. 29 out of 36 but 4 times I guessed the correct answer but changed my mind.

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  7. I got a 30.. very interesting.. considering my mood is not stable right now I'll take this later when it is more calm to see if there is a difference. I love finding tests like these.

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  8. 27 for me... kinda bummed i didn't do better. does this mean i don't have BPD??? :) i am going through a very hard time right now though... and a bunch of times i changed my answer at the last minute and i would have gotten it correct if i kept my first choice. i also agree with notamifiarscars, if i wasn't given the 4 choices i don't know if i would be able to pick it.

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  9. 34.

    Interesting because I was taking pics of myself just today and pondering what the expression in my own eyes conveyed.

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  10. I scored 32. I always know when something is bothering my partner. I'll ask her what's wrong and she might say nothing, but then tell me later she realised something was bugging her, but she hadn't realised it.

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  11. I scored 31.
    I hope that on next test, the men will have to wear lots of mascara and eyeliner.

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  12. I don't think they should be putting movie posters as samples. And Richard Guglinski, the serial killer. And say his gaze was "cautious" instead of "smug".

    I scored 28.

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  14. 33. Was anyone else terrified about taking this test? Im not going to do well, people will think I am an idiot, I will think I am an idiot.... geez

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  15. 35

    I saw a kind of interested female look as slightly cautious when it wasn't.

    Also, I almost picked disgust for one. I got stuck between it and another option, and ultimately went with the other option because it fit. I am glad disgust was never actually an answer.

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  16. 31. I have a BIG problem with recognizing positive emotions, I always interpret them as threatening.

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  17. 33

    But for 2 examples it was a toss up between two options and I went with the wrong one, so I could have gotten 35.

    I'm 49 and was only diagnosed with BPD about 14 months ago and I have been questioning the diagnosis ever since, but the more I learn about myself the more the pieces of the BPD puzzle fit together. This test is yet another piece that confirms the diagnosis.

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  18. 33. I haven't seen not even half of your blog, but you seem a very interesting person, very intelligent and complex, starving to learn more and more, I will study Psychology next year, so a lot you have here interests me

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  19. 34, knew I chose the wrong option for one ... was unsure only about one - the one I got wrong. I have to say I'm really good at this ... didn't know ... In most of them I didn't even need the options, I was dead on. I haven't been diagnosed with anything yet as I've yet to seek help with my plethora of problems. I've always known I'm extremely emphatic. Maybe too much. I wish I could just stop caring at will about what others think/feel, especially strangers in a crowd.

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  20. 35, and the one I missed happened to be a fantasizing female (I'm a male) which I mistook to be confusion. I've been diagnosed with BPD via multiple professional assessments. Self-esteem issues I suppose...

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Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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