Since the certification exam was a greater time commitment than expected I will continue working with Dr. Schug this fall semester to re-code videos from past subjects as well as coding new videos for newly developed projects. After completing CITI Human Subjects training as well as microexpression reading training using the Microexpression Training Tool, also released by the Ekman group, I will submit an IRB proposal to analyze the effect of daily technology use on people’s ability to read microexpressions themselves as a follow-up project to my summer research with the Facial Action Coding System. Although I am actively pursuing a career in medicine rather than psychology research, I believe my knowledge and skills concerning facial coding will benefit me in a clinical setting with being able to detect emotional nuances in face to face interactions with patients. I highly recommend that any psychology majors interested in learning more about FACS and microexpressions in general to contact Professor Schug to join her lab group that discusses FACS and how to code facial muscle movements.
This summer I completed the FACS Certification Exam released online by the Paul Ekman Group. The exam consists of thirty-four videos approximately one to two seconds in length and can be purchased online for $50. Each item is coded by slowing down the video and pausing the video at the apex of the subject’s facial movement. While completing the exam I frequently referenced the FACS Manual. I was able to compare screenshots of the exam items to photos listed in the FACS Manual to discern the existence of a given action unit within the video. Although I still had to code for intensity on the certification exam, it was not graded for accuracy, as slight differences in intensity can often be subjective. The Ekman group recommends spending 10-20 minutes on each item and the exam is not designed to be completed in one sitting. I anticipated that the exam would take at least a week to complete. Despite the assurance from my advisor that most people have to take the exam more than once, I was hoping to pass it on my first attempt. When I submitted my initial answers but did not receiving a passing grade, the Ekman group gives phenomenal feedback. They give an overall accuracy rating as well as an individual accuracy rating for each item so I knew if I coded an item 80% correctly or completed missed the action unit portrayed. After my third submission, I passed the exam and am now a certified FACS coder.
During my time on campus I studied the Facial Action Coding System. The Facial Action Coding System involves a series of action units that each code for a specific facial muscle movement. Over the Spring 2015 semester I was in a lab group that discussed FACS and practiced coding videos together. For the first few days of my time on campus I reviewed these videos and Powerpoint presentations in order to brush up on my coding skills. I also went into Dr. Schug’s lab to review the FACS Manual written by Dr. Paul Ekman, a major founder of the study of micro expressions. The Manual contains descriptions of each individual action unit. Each description includes specific movements that occur on the face when that unit is exemplified, such as deepening of the nasolabial furrow or narrowing of the eye aperture. The descriptions for each action unit are broken down into different intensities ranging from A to E with A being the least intense and E being the most intense. When coding a facial movement the action unit consists of its assigned number as well as a letter to describe its intensity e.g. 12B. A facial movement can be designated as a single action unit but is most often a combination of multiple action units at a given time.
Over the summer I plan to research the effects of regular technology use on one’s employment of mimicry, or the personal recreation of observed facial expressions, as a technique for identifying others’ emotions. Using a survey I plan to gather data explaining the weekly habits of participants including which types of devices they use (laptop computer, cellular phone, etc.), which activities they perform on said devices (social media, school work, etc.), and how many hours are spent on each device. Participants will also be videotaped while identifying the emotions of still photographs. The collected video data will be coded using the Facial Action Coding System to determine whether or not the participants employed mimicry in order to accurately identify the observed emotion.