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Wittgenstein, mimicry and congenital facial paralysis 

Abstract

Mimicry refers to the tendency to adopt the behavioral expressions of interaction partners. According to Wittgenstein, mimicry typically occurs outside of conscious awareness, and without any intent to mimic or imitate. Further, he suggests a bi-directional relationship between mimicry on the one hand, and rapport, affiliation on the other. That is, the ability to imitate and mimic what one perceives in the expression of another person creates affiliation, and affiliation can be expressed through mimicry. We argue that mimicry plays an important part in our form of life. Mimicry increases affiliation, which serves to promote relationships with others.

The congenital absence of facial expression and the inability to imitate facially the expressions of other persons may result in profound changes in the way a person is perceived by others and in a subsequent loss of affiliation. These experiences reveal not merely the importance of perceiving feelings and the capacity for imitating others for the maintenance of human relationships, but also the extent to which adults with a condition such as Möbius Syndrome may have difficulty in engaging in a shared form of life with others. These limitations are partial rather than absolute, however, and people with Möbius may yet maintain social coordination through their other channels of expression; through prosody of voice, gesture, clothes, enriched vocabulary, and so on. 

Keywords: Wittgenstein, mimicry, Möbius Syndrome, rapport, form of life

 

1 Introduction

In his late writings, Wittgenstein notes that humans have a tendency to mimic the observable behavior of others (Wittgenstein, 1958; 1980a; 1980b). He writes: 

‘I see that the child wants to touch the dog, but doesn’t dare’. How can I see that?  – Is this description of what is seen on the same level as a description of moving shapes and colors? Is an interpretation in question? Well, remember that you may also mimic a human being who would like to touch something but doesn’t dare. (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §1066) 

If someone sees a smile and does not know it for a smile, does not understand it as such, does he see it differently from someone else who understands it? – He mimics it differently, for instance. (Wittgenstein, 1958, p. 198) 

We can discern three claims in the quoted passages. First, we directly perceive thoughts and feelings in the expressions of other people, and not by way of inference. Second, we have a tendency to mimic others because perception automatically elicits corresponding behavior. Thirdly, behavioral mimicry is relevant for understanding what an expression means. If an individual could not do this, he may not understand what is expressed. Let’s now examine these claims. 

2 Social perception

What can we perceive? According to Wittgenstein, we perceive what we may call observables. This grouping involves behavior that we can literally perceive. We can see someone wave, scratch her head and wiggle his foot. Also, we hear people speak. Not only do we listen to the contents of speech, we also perceive other variables such as accents or tone of voice. Finally, we can perceive various facial expressions. We see people smile or frown, for example, and we apprehend the person’s feelings as that person’s feelings, through what we see in the face. Wittgenstein writes:

‘We see emotion.’ – As opposed to what? – We do not see facial contortions and make the inference that he is feeling joy, grief, boredom. We describe a face immediately as sad, radiant, bored, even when we are unable to give any other description of the features. – Grief, one would like to say, is personified in the face. This is essential to what we call ’emotion’. (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §570) 

Consciousness in another’s face. Look into someone else’s face, and see the consciousness in it, and a particular shade of consciousness. You see on it, in it, joy, indifference, interest, excitement, torpor, and so on. The light in other people’s faces. Do you look into yourself in order to recognize the fury in his face? It is there as clearly as in your own breast. (Wittgenstein, 1967, §220) 

We might also say: ‘It is there as clearly as in your own face’. The substitution is natural because it captures how mimicry is directly connected to understanding behavior as perceived in someone else. We perceive not merely because we need it to analyze and comprehend the expressions of interaction partners, but because we need it to behave. Perception is for doing. If the behavior of others communicates information, our perceptions of others’ behavior may then be used to guide our own behavior. Wittgenstein’s notion of an express connection between perception and behavior offers an alternative to the view of perception as functioning primarily to give us information about the external environment. He appears to be claiming that understanding and comprehension of the behavior of others are only means by which we act effectively, and do not constitute the basic function of perception. Wittgenstein seems to be hinting at this in the following excerpt: 

It comes to this: only of a living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees; is blind; is deaf; is conscious or unconscious. (Wittgenstein, 1958, §281) 

Social perception leads directly to social behavior. The tendency to mimic reveals an uninterrupted link between what we see and the behavior mimicry that corresponds to it. As a result, we often do what we see others doing. This suggests that mimicry is an automatic reaction to the expressions of interaction partners.

As mimicry is the direct consequence of perception, we do not require additional mental processes or private experiences to engage in it. No introspection is required, nor a conscious decision. We just do it. In facial mimicry, for example, we do not typically compare the facial expressions we mimic with the sensations of our facial musculature and decide that they match. Nor do we need to monitor or check the precise disposition of our features in such circumstances. Think how we engage in facial mimicry without seeing one’s own face in a mirror (Wittgenstein, 1958, §285). The difference between a friendly smile and a cruel smile, a wry smile or an ironic smile may be no more than a minute difference (a thousandth of an inch) in the orientation of the facial features, but we perceive it automatically, which also means that we can mimic these expressions without awareness, intent, or conscious control. The behavioral mimicry that corresponds to what we see is not the result of subjecting subtle degrees of behavioral difference to mental calculations. There is no act or process of ascertaining facial dimensions prior to facial mimicry of an expression. According to Wittgenstein, we simply react differently to such different facial expressions, and we would not explain our different descriptions of facial expressions or our mimicry of them by reference to measurement (Wittgenstein, 1958, §285). Just consider what it is like to respond to a broadly smiling infant, for here is an instance of the immediacy of what is called ‘natural reactions of persons to persons’ (Hamlyn, 1974). Wittgenstein writes: 

One may also say: ‘He made this face’ or ‘His face altered like this’, imitating it – and again one can’t describe it in any other way’. (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §920)

In sum, Wittgenstein acknowledges that observers mimic behavioral displays. Adaptive perception is in the service of functional behavioral responding to the environment, and mimicry is an automatic response of persons to persons. 

3 The absence of mimicry and counter-mimicry          

Our next task is to fill out the basic account described above. For it seems that mimicry may not always occur. In other cases, counter-mimicry may result. If correct, the absence of mimicry and counter-mimicry suggests that the tendency to mimic is somewhat less automatic and reflex-like than otherwise thought. In fact, Wittgenstein anticipated these possibilities. He imagines a face incapable of making gradual and subtle movements, and which had a limited number of facial expressions. When it altered, it would snap straight from one expression to another. He asks: ‘Would this fixed smile really be a smile? I might not be able to react as I do to a smile. Maybe it would not make me smile myself’ (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §614). This suggests that facial mimicry and mimicry in general is not obligatory, and can be inhibited. Wittgenstein may support a conception of facial mimicry as ‘default social behavior’: we automatically mimic, as long as other considerations do not have a reason to intervene. For example, ‘a person who had seen only one facial expression couldn’t have the concept ‘facial expression’. ‘Facial expression’ exists only within a play of features’ (Wittgenstein, 1992, §766). This means that a person who had only seen ‘happy’ faces could not mimic them as happy.

Wittgenstein also thinks that the nature of a judgment task may influence the expression or absence of facial mimicry. He hints that facial reactions to facial expressions may be either affective or cognitive. If we were to meet people who randomly mixed up posed and spontaneous emotional facial expressions, it is conceivable that ‘we should not know where we were within them’ (Wittgenstein, 1992, §201). And, if we had to decide whether an emotional facial expression was posed or spontaneous, a cognitive response such as ‘I have no idea what is going on inside of them’ may well inhibit facial mimicry. By contrast, an affective judgment regarding what we see will likely activate automatic facial mimicry. The suggested reason is that mimicry involves an affective response to what we perceive. Imitating the expressions of others indicates affiliation and personal relatedness towards the embodied individual whose expressions they are. Does Wittgenstein therefore imply that facial mimicry is related to affiliation? That is, does facial mimicry lead to feelings of closeness and rapport, and make social interactions smoother and more harmonious? We answer in the affirmative, and propose below that Wittgenstein holds that mimicking the behavior of others ‘bonds’ people together.

4 Mimicry, rapport and interpersonal closeness

The sense of psychological connection members of a form of life feel allows them to live in harmony and accomplish shared practices and activities. Behaviors that facilitate and maintain bonds between life-members are therefore extremely important. Individuals who tend to mimic their peers likely experience this psychological connection, and therefore would be likely to continue to engage in a shared form of life with the others.

The following excerpt suggests that Wittgenstein sees facial mimicry as a means to communicate rapport with another. He writes: ‘for a child to perceive a smile as a smile is for the child to be drawn into a quality of relatedness to the smiling person, such that the child is inclined to smile…’ (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §766) In facial mimicry, what is expressed through the other’s face becomes a component of the mimicking observer’s own affective state. This may explain why smiles are not perceived as mere facial contortions: in mimicking the expressions of another, we apply a kind of perception that means we have an affective response to what we see. Indeed, a person could not acquire the concept of ‘smile’ unless he could be affected by and engaged with a smiling person. Wittgenstein writes: ‘My relation to the appearance [of facial expressions] here is part of my concept’ (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §617). Hamlyn (1974) endorses this theme in claiming that we could not know what a person is, unless we felt a sense of psychological connection with others.

Imagine individuals engaged in a task with a confederate who either mimicked their facial expressions or had mechanical, fixed facial displays that ‘would snap straight from one to another’ (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §614). We may well assume that those who were not mimicked feeling alienated and thinking ‘I have no idea what is going on inside of him’, or even ‘I am not sure he likes me’. By contrast, individuals who were mimicked will likely see the interaction as having been smooth and harmonious and they may even like the confederate more. It appears therefore that Wittgenstein may be credited with the view of mimicry as a manifestation of personal relatedness towards the subject of the feelings.

As we will see in the next section, situational factors that create a desire to affiliate such as the condition of congenital facial paralysis may stimulate more mimicry. Individual differences in the desire to affiliate may also influence behavioral mimicry and contribute to rapport and interpersonal relatedness. For example, empathic individuals who are able to perceive and adopt the perspectives of others as perspectives, both different from and coordinated with one’s own, may mimic people more than people low in empathy. The ability to take the perspectives of others activates mimicry, suggesting that individuals who are able to affiliate with another person or groups of persons because of their ability to assimilate the state of someone else also can employ mimicry behavior. A person unable to mimic the facial displays of others would likely have a reduced capacity to share or otherwise coordinate perspectives with others.

Support for these claims comes from a paper by Hampshire (1976) who develops Wittgenstein’s ideas. He notes that ‘the primitive faculty of imitation’ creates social coordination through affiliation between interaction partners, or as he expresses it, ‘a necessary background to the communication of feeling’ (Hampshire, 1976, p.73). He goes on: 

In direct dealings with men, outside the context of fiction, we perceive, and react to, the physiognomy of persons almost as immediately as to the full behavior of which the facial expression is the residue…Because of the connecting arch of expression, we cannot truthfully say, as many philosophers have implied, that we perceive only the behavior of others, if behavior is interpreted as that which is described in terms of effective actions performed and in socially recognized routines. We perceive also that kind of residual, shadow behavior which constitutes an expression. And we can show that we have perceived it by adopting the same expression in imitation, without trying to reproduce, item by item, the physical features of the face or posture of another (Hampshire, 1976, 78-79).

We speculate that rapport and interpersonal closeness may stimulate a person to mimic more. This is a possibility that would allow members to be successful with the interactions. An individual mimics to create rapport and be included in the form of life. The ‘quality of relatedness’ that develops between life members then extends the circle, as it causes life members to continue to mimic each other, which creates more rapport. 

5 Mimicry and congenital facial paralysis

We have been proposing that Wittgenstein’s remarks reviewed above are consistent with the claim that one reason people mimic others is that this mimicry has some adaptive value. To the extent that an individual shares practices and activities with other people, and engages in behavior that facilitates this goal, that person will be included in the form of life. The inability to mimic the expressions of others caused by the loss of facial expression may therefore result in a partial failure to engage in a form of life shared with others. The flaccid facial skin and expressionless face characterizing Möbius Syndrome, a condition of congenital facial paralysis, makes an individual appear dissimilar to interaction partners and therefore may diminish the psychological connection with others, especially unknown others (Briegel, 2003). These limitations are partial rather than absolute, however, and people with Möbius may yet maintain social coordination through their other channels of expression; through prosody of voice, gesture, enriched vocabulary, and so on. 

5.1 Möbius Syndrome and ‘private’ language 

How do words refer to sensations? Here is one possibility: words are connected with the primitive, the natural, expressions of the sensation and used in their place. (Wittgenstein, 1958, §244) 

But suppose I didn’t have any natural expression for the sensation, but only had the sensation? And now I simply associate names with sensations and use these names in descriptions. (Wittgenstein, 1958, §256)

In his remarks on the possibility of a ‘private’ language, Wittgenstein imagines a language in which the sensation-words are not connected with sensations as partial substitutes for natural expressions of sensations, as they are in our ordinary languages (Wittgenstein, 1958, §244). Experiences here are conceived to lack any manifestation in behavior, and so the names of experiences are not linked to displays such as facial expressions or behavioral mimicry. In the absence of a connection with facial-behavior, what links name and experience? Cole (2000) describes a woman with congenital facial paralysis who, like the ‘private’ linguist just described, is unable to link words with experiences as substitutes for facial expressions. In her job as a care-worker she had experienced some prejudice from elderly patients, but she successfully surmounted it. He writes: 

Her use of body language and intonation in speech had essentially overcome these problems. When she had taken her wedding photographs round to friends they had teased her for not smiling. She had to tell them that she never smiled – her friends had not noticed her lack of facial movement in smiling because she communicated her happiness through other channels. (Cole, 2000, p.253)

Some people with congenital facial paralysis may overcome their loss by linking words and experiences with other expressive-behaviors. These other expressions in turn may be used as behavioral mimicry and could succeed in creating an interpersonal connection with others (Cole, 2001). Indeed, situations where there is a desire to affiliate activate the tendency to mimic the behavior of interaction partners (Lakin & Chartrand, 2003). Consequently, we would expect to see behavioral mimicry in an individual with congenital facial paralysis who is stimulated by the condition to affiliate with others.

There may be evidence showing that the ability to produce facial expressions is not a necessary prerequisite of their recognition. In one study of facial expression recognition by three people with congenital facial paralysis (Calder, A. J. et al., 2000), participants were asked to identify the emotion displayed in 10 examples of facial expressions associated with each of 6 basic emotions selected from the ‘Pictures of Facial Affect’ (Ekman and Friesen, 1976). In a second test computer-morphed facial expressions were used. Even when perceptual impairments were found, people with facial paralysis still perceived many of the facial expressions shown to them. This may suggest that the ability to produce facial expressions is not a necessary prerequisite of their perception.

A difficulty with this study is the employment of prototypical, high intensity, still photographs as stimulus material. Such stimuli may in fact activate an automatic reaction due to their extremity that is not found for weaker non-prototypical expressions. And there is no evidence showing that this primitive response is inhibited in people with congenital facial paralysis. Using expressions that are not chosen according to their correspondence to an emotion stereotype is therefore an important consideration. To enhance ecological validity in studies of facial expression recognition in people with facial paralysis, dynamic facial expressions should be chosen. Like the drawing of an upside-down face, a static face may make it difficult to see clearly what expression the face expresses. Wittgenstein writes: 

Hold the drawing of a face upside-down and you can’t tell the expression of the face. Perhaps you can see that it is smiling, but you won’t be able to say what sort of a smile it is. You wouldn’t be able to imitate the smile or describe its character more exactly.

And yet the upside-down picture may represent the object extremely accurately. (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §991) 

A facial expression that was completely fixed couldn’t be a friendly one. Variability and irregularity are essential to a friendly expression. Irregularity is part of its physiognomy.

The importance we attach to the subtle shades of behavior. (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §§615-616)

Some people with Möbius Syndrome may reveal perspective taking and rapport through their other channels of expression: gesture, prosody of voice, enriched vocabulary, and so on. Other people with congenital facial paralysis, however, may rely on more introspective means to understand and communicate their experiences. Wittgenstein mentions the possibility of an associative link between language and experience: ‘I simply associate names with sensations and use these names in descriptions’ (Wittgenstein, 1958, §256). There is qualitative evidence that some adults with Möbius form an associative connection between language and experience to compensate for the lack of facial mobility. James, an adult male with Möbius, said in an interview:

Of course since I have never been able to move the face, I’ve never associated movement of the face with feeling of an emotion. When there are things which are sad I tell the person that I feel sorry for you but that I am thinking that rather than feeling it. (Cole, 2000, p.255)

When asked about first meeting his future wife, James replied: 

I think initially was I thinking I was in love with her. It was some time later when I realized that I really felt in love. I do think I get trapped in my mind or my head. I sort of think happy or I think sad, not really saying or recognizing actually feeling happy or feeling sad. Perhaps I have had a difficulty in recognizing that which I’m putting a name to is not a thought at all but it is a feeling, maybe I have to intellectualize mood. I have to say this thought is a happy thought and therefore I am happy. (Cole, 2000, p.254)

Some adults with Möbius may consequently experience sensations and feelings quite differently from the others in whose language names of experiences are connected with behavioral expressions, and even from those with congenital facial paralysis who can overcome the loss of psychological connection with others. These individuals may have a reduced capacity for communicating experiences and creating rapport with interaction partners. James added:

I think also that I have a fear of being out of control with emotions, feeling something that I can’t manage. I have also found it very difficult to communicate feelings throughout my life, whether as a child with my wife, though I think I am getting better at it now. I don’t really know how I communicate happiness or sadness. That’s a very hard question. Some people cry when they’re sad. I don’t think I cry. I sometimes felt that I would like to be able to cry but, you see, I am not really able to cry, my tears can come but there’s nothing else. My tears only flow when I eat. I am afraid of such feelings. I try and shut them off. (Cole, 2000, pp.254-255)

5.2 Möbius Syndrome and emotion recognition 

Suppose someone had always seen faces with only one expression, say a smile. And now, for the first time, he sees a face changing its expression. Couldn’t we say he hadn’t noticed a facial expression until now? Not until the change took place was the expression meaningful; earlier it was simply part of the anatomy of the face. (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §356) 

The blank and expressionless face of congenital facial paralysis appears to be part of the ‘anatomy of the face’, and is not to be taken by itself as a meaningful facial expression. A completely static face would not be an expressive face (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §614). Suppose, however, that a face paralyzed from birth alters for the first time, and smiles. Maybe the face smiles in response to the facial expression of an interaction partner. Or, the face smiles when given the command to do so. In any event, could the statement ‘Make a happy face, and you will feel happy’ be true in this exceptional case?

Think of children with congenital facial paralysis who receive muscle transplants to improve lip movement (Goldman et al. 2003). Suppose a child reports following surgery ‘Now I feel much better: the feeling in my facial muscles and round about the corners of my mouth is good’ (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §454). This statement may be taken by the child’s surgeon as communicating something highly meaningful since it implies the success of the procedure and postoperative rehabilitation. Certainly, it would sound strange under normal circumstances because when talking about myself feeling better I do not intend to talk about what it looks like to feel better. I would be treating myself as if I were a different person. Normally, this is not possible in talking to others, but makes sense in the child who receives a facial muscle transplant. For the procedure is one way to make the child appear similar to others and therefore create a psychological connection. The child may now mimic the facial expressions of others which would make social interactions smoother and more harmonious. These experiences may transform the child’s fragile sense of self. In this case, it would really be as if the child were another person.

Wittgenstein writes:

And how does it come about that … I have a feeling of joy if I merely make a joyful face; a feeling of sadness, if I make a sad one? That, therefore, I can produce these feelings by imitating their expression? Does that show that muscular sensations are sadness, or part of sadness? (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §451) 

Wittgenstein’s last question in this remark asks whether there is a conceptual or empirical link between statements of emotions and statements of expressions of emotions. He continues on:

Suppose someone were to say: ‘Raise your arm, and you will feel that you are raising your arm.’ Is that an empirical proposition? And it is one if it is said: ‘Make a sad face, and you will feel sad’? (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §452)

Let us briefly investigate these questions. Is ‘Raise your arm, and you will feel that you are raising your arm’ an empirical statement? This statement can be false in situations where a person is intoxicated by a drug which deadens his limbs, so that he feels nothing. This suggests that it is an empirical statement. By contrast, it will be false only in exceptional situations, whereas typically we feel sure that the feeling that one is raising one’s arm is simply part of raising one’s arm. Finally, it seems unlike what we may wish to call a conceptual truth or analytic statement.

Now, is the same true of the statement ‘Make a sad face, and you will feel sad’? When we mimic intense or prototypical facial expressions of sadness we do not normally observe ourselves to find out how it feels to be sad. Such displays may activate a reflex-like response due to their extremity that may not be found for less extreme expressions. It seems possible in the mimicry of less prototypical or weaker facial displays that we may observe ourselves, trace our feelings, and even compare them with the emotion that causes these changes in us (cf. Wittgenstein, 1958, §§585-588; 1980b, §§156; 722). In such a situation an observer may recognize he is imitating a sad face and literally feels that he is sad. This suggests that the mimicking observers may use their own muscular sensations and feelings as a means to recognize the interaction partner’s emotional state where the emotion displays are relatively weak and non-prototypical.  

Wittgenstein himself does not settle the problem of whether there is a conceptual or empirical link between statements of emotions and statements of expressions of emotions, but he does cast doubt on the claim that muscular sensations or affective states are to be included as elements of our emotions.  He argues:

Now granted – although it is extremely doubtful – that the muscular feeling of a smile is a constituent part of feeling glad; – where are the other components? Well, in the breast and belly etc.! – But do you really feel them, or do you merely conclude that they must be there? Are you really conscious of these localized feelings? – And if not – why are they supposed to be there at all? Why are you supposed to mean them, when you say you feel happy? Something that could only be accompanied through an act of looking – that’s at any rate not what you meant.

For ‘sorrow’, ‘joy’ etc. just are not used like that. (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §§456-457) 

Our words for emotions like sorrow, joy, and so on, are used for affective states which we do not need to find out about. And whatever is part of these emotions is something we automatically perceive, not through making an introspective effort or an inference. Some of Wittgenstein’s remarks on facial mimicry and emotional contagion may employ prototypical, high intensity expressions as primary material, whereas we have argued that the mimicking observers of subtle or weaker facial expressions may use their own muscular sensations and feelings as a means to recognize the interaction partner’s emotional state. Hence, the question of whether individuals mimic the type of expression they perceive in everyday life deserves further investigation.

5.3  Ostracism

Partial or complete ostracism from a form of life is one of the most psychologically damaging experiences that an individual can endure (Williams, 2001). It is possible that being ostracized from a form of life would be a strong contextual factor that would stimulate the tendency to mimic the behaviors of an interaction partner. The inability to mimic through loss of facial expression may therefore place a person at an even greater risk of being ostracized by unknown others. Cole (2001) interviewed a person with congenital facial paralysis who described the ‘daily horror of walking down the street, not knowing if people would say hello to him or not and not knowing how to respond’. The relationship between facial mimicry and affiliation may heighten the fear of rejection in some people with Möbius. Creating rapport and interpersonal closeness with others involves a risk so great to the sense of self that some individuals avoid relationships with others and retreat into themselves. James reported: 

I have a notion which has stayed with me over much of my life – that it is possible to live in your head, entirely in your head. Whether that came out of my facial problem I don’t know. I was very introspective. I divided people into two categories: those who didn’t want to have anything to do with me for various reasons and those who did. (Cole, 2000, p. 254)

I had feelings of low self-esteem and loneliness and isolation in company. It is only very recently that the whole area of non-verbal communication has even come to my attention. I know now that since I put out a reduced range of signals I receive back a similarly reduced range. (Cole, 2000, p. 254)

6 A final note

In this paper, we have highlighted what mimicry is and indicated its adaptive significance in Wittgenstein’s thought. We also suggested that Wittgenstein relates mimicry to affiliation, and that mimicking the behaviors of others encourages inclusion in a form of life and maintains harmonious relationships with other life-members. Individual differences in the desire to affiliate may influence behavioral mimicry and contribute to rapport and interpersonal relatedness with others in the form of life. Empathic individuals who adopt the perspectives of others as perspectives may mimic people more than people low in empathy. The inability to mimic through congenital loss of facial expression may lead to an avoidance orientation in some individuals, and intrapersonal disorientation. Situational factors that create a desire to affiliate such as Möbius Syndrome may stimulate more mimicry through remaining channels of expression. This suggests that people with congenital facial paralysis may mimic others through expressive-behaviors such as prosody of voice and gesture. 

References

1. Briegel, W. 2006. Neuropsychiatric findings of Möbius sequence – a review. Clinical Genetics 70(2), 91-97.

2. Calder, A.J., Keane, J., Cole, J., Campbell, R., and Young, A.W. 2000. facial expression recognition by people with Möbius syndrome. Cognitive Neuropsychology 17(1-3), 73-87.

3. Cole, J. 1997. On ‘being faceless’: selfhood and facial embodiment. Journal of Consciousness Studies 4(5-6), 467-484.

4. Cole, J. 1999. About Face. MA: The MIT Press.

5. Cole, J. 2000. Living with difficulties of facial processing: some ontological conquences of clinical facial problems. Pragmatics & Cognition 8(1), 237-260.

6. Cole, J., Spalding, H. 2008. The Invisible Smile: living without facial expression. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

7. Ekman, P., and Friesen, W.V. 1976. Pictures of Facial Affect. Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

8. Goldberg, C., Delorie, R., Zuker, R.M., Manktelow, R.T. 2003. The Effects of Gracilis Muscle Transplantation on Speech in Children with Moebius Syndrome. The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery 14(5), 687-690.

9. Hamlyn, D.W. 1974. Person-perception and our understanding of others. In: T. Mischel (ed.), Understanding other persons. Basil Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 1-36.

10. Hampshire, S. 1976. Feeling and expression. In: J. Glover (ed.), The philosophy of mind. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp, 73-83.

11. Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J.T., & Rapson, R.L. 1994. Emotional Contagion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

12. Hess, U., Blairy, S. 2001. Facial mimicry and emotional contagion to dynamic emotional facial expressions and their influence on decoding accuracy. International Journal of Psychphysiology 40(2), 129-141.

13. Hobson, R.P. 1993. Autism and the Development of Mind. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

14. Lakin, J.L., Chartrand, T.L. 2003. Using nonconscious behavioral mimicry to create affiliation and rapport. Psychological Science 14(4), 334-339.

15. Meltzoff, A.N., Moore, M.K. 1977. Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates. Science, 198, 75-78.

16. Partridge, J. 1990. Changing Faces. London: Penguin Books.

17. Williams, K.D. 2001. Ostracism: The power of silence. New York: Guilford Press.

18. Wittgenstein, L. 1958. Philosophical Investigations. ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and R.Rhees. tr. G.E.M. Anscombe, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

19. Wittgenstein, L. 1967. Zettel. ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, tr. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

20. Wittgenstein, L. 1992. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume II, ed. G.H. von Wright and H. Nyman, tr. C.G. Luckhart and M.A.E. Aue. Oxford: Blackwell.

21. Wittgenstein, L. 1980a. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume I, ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, tr. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

22. Wittgenstein, L. 1980b. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume II, ed. G.H. von Wright and H. Nyman, tr. C.G. Luckhart and M.A.E. Aue. Oxford: Blackwell.

23. Wittgenstein, L. 1992. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume II, ed. G.H. von Wright and H. Nyman, tr. C.G. Luckhart and M.A.E. Aue. Oxford: Blackwell.

Appendix I. Services in Taiwan for people with facial paralysis 

Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation in Taiwan (SSWFT) 

Established in 1981, the mission of the SWWFT is to provide an extensive range of services for burn survivors and people with facial disfigurement; to assist them in their physical, psychological and social rehabilitation; to uphold their human rights and dignity. 

http://www.sunshine.org.tw/english/Default.asp 

Taiwan Foundation for Rare Diseases (TFRD) 

Established in 1998, TFRD assists rare disease patients to receive proper medical treatment and rehabilitation, education, employment and long-term care. TFRD advocates the adoption of relevant legislation that ensures rare disease patients’ rights, encourages rare disease research, and is active in raising public awareness of rare diseases. 

http://www.tfrd.org.tw/ 

 

Hold the drawing of a face upside-down and you can’t tell the expression of the face. Perhaps you can see that it is smiling, but you won’t be able to say what sort of a smile it is. You wouldn’t be able to imitate the smile or describe its character more exactly.

And yet the upside-down picture may represent the object extremely accurately. (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §991) 

In one study of facial expression recognition by three people with congenital facial paralysis (Calder, A. J. et al., 2000), participants were asked to identify the emotion displayed in 10 examples of facial expressions associated with each of 6 basic emotions selected from the ‘Pictures of Facial Affect’ (Ekman and Friesen, 1976). In a second test computer-morphed facial expressions were used. Even when perceptual impairments were found, people with facial paralysis still perceived many of the facial expressions shown to them. This may suggest that the ability to produce facial expressions is not a necessary prerequisite of their recognition.

A difficulty with this study is the employment of prototypical, high intensity, still photographs as stimulus material. As noted above, such stimuli may in fact activate an automatic reaction due to their extremity that is not found for weaker non-prototypical expressions. And there is no evidence showing that this primitive response is inhibited in people with congenital facial paralysis. Using expressions that are not chosen according to their correspondence to an emotion stereotype is therefore an important consideration. To enhance ecological validity in studies of facial expression recognition in people with facial paralysis, dynamic facial expressions should be chosen. Like the drawing of an upside-down face, a static face may make it difficult to see clearly what expression the face expresses. Wittgenstein writes: 

A facial expression that was completely fixed couldn’t be a friendly one. Variability and irregularity are essential to a friendly expression. Irregularity is part of its physiognomy.

The importance we attach to the subtle shades of behavior. (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §§615-616)

References
Calder, A.J., Keane, J., Cole, J., Campbell, R., and Young, A.W. 2000. Facial expression recognition by people with mobius syndrome. Cognitive Neurospychology 17(1-3), 73-87. 

For a person to see light moving enchantlingly over a grass hill is to be drawn into a quality of intimacy to the perception such that the person is inclined to automatically imitate it. To see the hill as ‘enchanted’ is to take it as an interaction partner we mimic in speech, facial expressions, emotions, postures, gestures and mannerisms. Our reaction conveys rapport and understanding and leads to a desire to affiliate.

Wittgenstein noted that human beings adopt facial, postural and vocal behaviors that are congruent with the displays they perceive, and that these displays often represent mimicry. Social perception, understood by Wittgenstein as the ability to directly read off emotion and thought from a person’s behavior, has a direct effect on social behavior. As a result, we often do what we see others doing. How can a person see that the child wants to touch the dog, but doesn’t dare? Wittgenstein’s answer is that an observer ‘may also mimic a human being who would like to touch something, but doesn’t dare’ (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §1066). This suggests that mimicry is essential for understanding what the perceived behavior means. If a person could not do this, then he would fail to understand something important about what is expressed. The perception-behavior link Wittgenstein argues for is the human tendency to act in the same way as we see others act.

Wittgenstein considers as facial mimicry the congruent facial reactions to the emotional displays of others. Specifically, mimicry is understood as an expressive component. As facial mimicry is the direct consequence of perception, we do not need additional private mechanisms to engage in it. No introspection is required, nor a conscious decision. We just do it. For example, the difference between a friendly smile, a wry, sarcastic, ironic, or cruel smile may be no more than a minute difference (a thousandth of an inch) in the orientation of the facial features, but we perceive it, and not by measuring the difference. Moreover, we mimic such expressions without looking in the mirror, and without monitoring or checking the precise disposition of our features (Wittgenstein, 1958, §285). We see friendliness in a face; we do not infer it from such-and-such a facial configuration we know accompanies our own feelings: ‘We describe a face immediately as sad, radiant, bored, even when we are unable to give any other description of the features’ (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §570). The same can be said of facial mimicry: ‘One may also say: ‘He made this face’ or ‘His face altered like this‘, imitating it – and again one can’t describe it in any other way’ (Wittgenstein, 1980a, §920). There is something primitive about the ability to transpose what we perceive in the facial expression of someone else, to one’s own facial expression and activity. Indeed, one-month-old infants have been shown to smile, stick out their tongues, and open their mouths when they see someone else doing the same (Meltzoff & Moore, 1977).

However, facial mimicry may not always occur. An unsightly and unusual facial expression that leads to puzzlement or prejudice may not stimulate congruent facial expressions in an observer. Depending on the nature of the decoding task, facial reactions to emotional facial expressions may be either affective or cognitive. If we were to meet people who randomly mixed up posed and spontaneous emotional facial expressions, it is conceivable that ‘we should not know where we were within them’ (Wittgenstein, 1992, §201). And, if we had to decide whether an emotional facial expression was posed or spontaneous, no facial mimicry may accompany a cognitive judgment such as ‘I have no idea what is going on inside of them’. By contrast, Wittgenstein suggests that we may find facial mimicry when observers are asked to make affective judgments concerning emotional facial expressions.

In other cases, counter-mimicry may result. Wittgenstein imagines a face incapable of making gradual and subtle movements, and which had a limited number of facial expressions. When it altered, it would snap straight from one expression to another. He asks: ‘Would this fixed smile really be a smile? I might not be able to react as I do to a smile. Maybe it would not make me smile myself’ (Wittgenstein, 1980b, §614). This suggests that facial mimicry is not obligatory, and can be inhibited. Wittgenstein may have supported a conception of facial mimicry as ‘default social behavior’: we naturally mimic, as long as other considerations do not have a reason to intervene. For example, ‘a person who had seen only one facial expression couldn’t have the concept ‘facial expression’. ‘Facial expression’ exists only within a play of features’ (Wittgenstein, 1992, §766). This means that a person who had only seen ‘happy’ faces could not mimic them as happy. 

In sum, Wittgenstein acknowledges that observers mimic facial displays. However, the possibility of counter-mimicry he mentions may suggest that this reaction is somewhat less automatic and reflex-like than otherwise thought.

Proposal for PhD Thesis in Philosophy

 Thesis Title: Pain 

This research project contributes to the study of pain with reference to Wittgenstein’s philosophical psychology and pain facial expression. The thesis divides into five papers as follows: 

– Paper 1: Pretence and the definition of pain (approx. 20,000 words)

– Paper 2: Primitive pain-expression and deliberate control (approx. 20,000 words)

– Paper 3: The indeterminacy of pain (approx. 20,000 words)

– Paper 4: Is there a pain face? (approx. 20,000 words)

– Paper 5: Moebius Syndrome and pain catastrophizing (approx. 20,000 words) 

A description of each paper is below. 

Paper 1: Pretence and the definition of pain

Description:

The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) Committee for Taxonomy defines pain as ‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage’. They further state that ‘pain is always subjective. Each individual learns the application of the word through experiences related to injury in early life’ (Merskey, 1994).

This definition states that the employment of the word ‘pain’ needs to be learned through experiences in early life: a child has hurt himself and cries; and then adults talk to him and teach him the use (meaning) of ‘pain’. Wittgenstein (1958b) suggests that the child is trained to substitute its primitive, natural expressive pain-behavior first with exclamations and later with sentences such as ‘I have a stomach-ache’. There are other possibilities. One might point at someone who is manifestly in pain and say, ‘There: that is what it is to be in pain’, or ‘That is pain’ (see Wittgenstein, 1958b, §290). On the other hand, it appears that the perception of pain is an intrinsic feature of life itself, is manifested in all living organisms, and while subject to influence by life experiences, does not require previous experience in the first instance. The first experience of tissue injury is painful, in much the same way that touch, smell, vision, or hearing need not be learned in order to occur in the human being. Infants from 25 weeks gestation show a characteristic pain face consisting of eyes squeezed shut, brows lowered, deepening of the nasolabial furrow, open lips, with mouth stretched vertically and horizontally (Craig et al. 1993; Stevens et al., 1994).

The meaning of these sensations, however, will develop with experience through positive, negative, and contextual associations (Anand & Craig, 1996). In other words, learning cannot be separated from the behaving organism: ‘Only of living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations, it sees, is blind; is deaf; is conscious or unconscious’ (Wittgenstein, 1958, §218). As the person develops, so do its behavioral repertoire and the qualitative features of its subjective experiences. As characteristic features of the behaving organism, learning is incorporated into experience as components of a ‘form of life’ (Sullivan, 2001).

An adult, for example, can pretend to be in pain without saying a word, merely by facial expressions, torso movements, or paralinguistic qualities of speech (Wittgenstein, 1982, §944). But for these apparently simple behaviors to constitute pretence presupposes complex motives, intentions (e.g. the intention to deceive), as well as a complicated play of expressions (i.e. numerous nonverbal actions). Can one imagine a new-born child with the play of facial expressions and expressive-behavior of an adult? A new-born child cannot be insincere, but neither can he be sincere. To dissimulate pain, he must first learn to mimic and to intend to mimic (Wittgenstein, 1958b).

Available empirical evidence suggests that by the age of four children are able to use techniques to dissemble non-painful subjective states. This suggests that they may succeed in misrepresenting expressions of pain (Larochette et al., 2006). Cases of illness falsification have been reported in children as young as 8 years (Libow, 2000). Children report that their most common reason for using deception, especially to conceal physical pain in front of their peers, is a fear of negative consequences, and that controlling facial behavior is the most common method of regulating expressions of emotion (Zeman & Garber, 1996). This suggests that a child learns to dissimulate pain only in the course of learning the complicated interpersonal use of ‘having pain’ (Wittgenstein, 1982). He must learn not only ‘He has a pain’, but also ‘I think (believe) he has a pain’ and ‘He thinks I have a pain’ (Wittgenstein, 1980a).

Paper 2: Primitive pain-expression and deliberate control

Description:

Approaches to pain assessment typically distinguish between self-report and nonverbal, observational indices, but do not specify criteria or reasoning for the distinction (Hadjistavropoulos & Craig, 2002). Self-report indicators usually employ verbal report to describe the individual’s pain experience, or to communicate qualities of experience through the use of speech (e.g. ‘I have a dull nagging pain in my lumbar region’). The context is important as the exchange is either initiated by the individual in pain or serves as a response to others’ queries. Observational indicators typically focus upon nonverbal, publicly observable manifestations of pain including facial expressions, cry, limb and torso movements and paralinguistic qualities of speech.

The nonverbal behavior that is the focus of observational indices typically can be viewed as primitive in the sense that the behavior represents reflexive patterns of response to actual or impending tissue damage that are not anteceded by introspective awareness or inner observation of private phenomena (Wittgenstein, 1958b; 1980b; 1982). For example, babies’ cries typically alert mothers and caretakers as to children’s needs and initiate required care, even though the infant cannot be characterized as intending or consciously understanding the interaction. While pain is a powerful initiator of attention, introspection does not mediate or modulate primitive behavioral reactions. Instead, we claim that when conscious awareness is employed to influence any form of social communication, the expression cannot be taken as an automatic reaction pattern. For example, to pretend to be in pain, an individual must know how a person who is in pain behaves and focus one’s behavior on that model, intend to reproduce it (Wittgenstein, 1982). Moreover, people tend to experience difficulty suppressing nonverbal expressions of pain and there are subtle differences between spontaneous and feigned expressions of pain (Craig et. al, 1999).

Another important aspect of the primitiveness of pain communication pertains to the experience of conscious awareness of what is happening. Self-report indices typically necessitate attention to the task, including some degree of self-observation. By contrast, the behaviors included in many nonverbal indices occur spontaneously without prior awareness, although the individual likely will monitor the display (Hadjistavropoulos & Craig, 2002). This view ignores the important fact that self-report is used as a partial substitute for automatic nonverbal behaviors (Wittgenstein, 1958b). The exclamation ‘It hurts’, the groan ‘I have a stomach-ache’, the cry ‘I’ve hurt myself’ are reflexive patterns of response, not descriptions; they are comparable to automatic nonverbal behaviors rather than to reports such as ‘He has a back-pain’. In this situation, there is no such thing as my ‘finding out’ that I am in pain, or of my ‘attending’ or ‘recognizing’ my pain-sensations or experiences (Wittgenstein, 1958b).

A primitive expression of pain can be over-ridden to some degree. For instance, facial pain expression can be voluntarily controlled, although the upper face is less amenable to conscious control (Rinn, 1984). Communicative acts often reflect anticipation of consequences. As Wittgenstein (1958b) noted, pain behavior is deeply influenced by conditioning and learning. We claim that the more dependent pain behavior is on learning and conditioning, the more it will be subject to deliberate mediation. Empirical evidence suggests that nonverbal pain expressions that are genuine can be distinguished from masked or exaggerated expressions (Hadjistavropoulos et. al, 1996), possibly because of the greater automaticity of nonverbal expression places limits on the degree to which it can be influenced by learning and conditioning (in contrast to self-report). Observers generally appreciate this and communicate preferences for nonverbal behavior over verbal behavior when assessing the truthfulness of others’ pain behavior (Craig, Prkachin, & Grunau, 1992). This suggests that pain assessment presupposes behavioral manifestations, primarily nonverbal and observational indices, and that ascribing pain in others is possible only where we have criteria for identifying pain, which means that pain must be capable of being expressed (Wittgenstein, 1958b). 

Paper 3: The indeterminacy of pain

Description:

Research claims that significant discrepancies exist between self-report, non-verbal expressions of pain, and evidence of tissue damage, reflecting the impact of some of these criteria, in children (Doherty et al., 1993) and in adults (Craig et al., 1992). Prkachin et al. (1994) found that self-report, nonverbal expression and observers’ judgments were in agreement when the pain was severe, but that observers had difficulty judging accurately a sufferer’s inner state when the pain was submaximal, even though evidence was manifest in the face. There is no guarantee that pain expression will be detected by the observer or that the observer will be able to draw accurate conclusions about the state of the sufferer.

It has been suggested that this inconsistency reflects the multidimensional nature of pain and human ability to detect only selected features at any given time (Hadjistavropoulos & Craig, 2002). For example, it is common for clinicians to encounter patients who appear to complain unreasonably, but express minimal nonverbal pain, and the opposite. Prkachin and Craig (1995) propose that as the sufferer’s experience is expressed, there is a loss of information transfer, causing discrepancies between the different pain indices.

In this paper, we propose to understand the relationships among the various indicators of pain by recalling Wittgenstein’s reminder that the word ‘pain’ refers to ‘patterns in the weave of our life’ (Wittgenstein, 1958b), and the complexity of this weave explains why the different pain indices are not always in agreement. It also explains why third-person psychological judgments (e.g. clinical reports) are sometimes uncertain. This reflects an indeterminacy which is constitutive of our concept of pain. That indeterminacy in turn is due to communal patterns of behavior and the complex nature of our form of life: the concept of pain must be flexible and elastic because human behavior, and our reaction to it, is diverse and unpredictable (Wittgenstein, 1980b; 1982; 1992). Given the complexities of the pain experience, it cannot be expected that simple criteria could capture the full range of the experience (Hadjistavropoulos & Craig, 2002; Wittgenstein, 1980b). Hence, the indeterminacy of the pain experience and the challenges associated with characterizing emotional states logically exclude either self-report or nonverbal behavior alone as capable of giving expression to the subtleties involved.

As Wittgenstein (1958b) observes, connections between the sensation of pain and reporting pain are highly context-dependent and depend on the criteria used to judge it (e.g. self-report or observational criteria), who is expressing the self-report (e.g. age, gender), the reasons for expressing the self-report, and the person’s understanding of the consequences of reporting pain. Moreover, there is considerable potential for response bias when self-report is used to communicate features of painful experience to others (Anand & Craig, 1996). Since self-report is a fallible source of data (Schwartz, 1999), nonverbal information (e.g. facial expressions) is often needed and employed for pain assessment (Craig, 1993). Finally, even those who are closely acquainted with a person can make even the most subtle judgments with certainty, without being able to specify conclusive criteria, since their evidence is ‘imponderable’, that is, consists of a complex syndrome of behavior, context and prior events (Wittgenstein, 1958b).

Although the indeterminacy of our concept of pain means that the different pain indices are not typically connected in a rigid way, it is possible to increase sensitivity to pain communicated by facial expression by brief periods of training. Solomon et al. (1997) found that exposure to a 30-minute training video increased sensitivity to subtle facial movements associated with low levels of pain. This lends hope to the possibility of developing a clinical tool to detect pain.

Paper 4: Is there a pain face?

Description:

        Studies using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS; Ekman & Friesen, 1978) reveal a combination of facial expressions that appear to be specific to acute pain and that reveal the connection between pain facial expression and pain (Craig, 1980; Prkachin, 1992; Prkachin and Solomon, 2008). Core action units (AUs) in adults are brow lowering (corrugator: AU 4), cheek raise and lid tighten (both parts of orbicularis oculi: AU6 and 7), nose wrinkle and upper lip-raise (both parts of levator labii: AU 9 and 10), and eye closing (AU43) (Craig et al., 1992). It has been suggested that pain facial expression is a combination of the core actions along with a limited range of other actions; an expression that is better described as an indeterminate set than a fixed prototype (Prkachin & Craig, 1995). In naturalistic settings, we find it easier to describe a person as ‘in pain’ than to describe his facial features or behavior in precise physical terms, and we do not typically infer psychologically relevant descriptions of pain from austere physical ones (Wittgenstein, 1980a, 1992). For we often know the conclusions of such alleged inferences without knowing their premises (Wittgenstein, 1980a).

        Objections to the specificity of the pain face suggest that it forms part of a whole body defensive response to pain, an effort to withdraw from the stimulus and to protect the body. Salzen (2002) claims that pain facial expression consisting of tension in the facial flexor muscles, contraction of the eyes, retraction of the lips, and clenched teeth is part of a general body flexor reaction. This is based on the idea that pain facial expression is a ‘sensory-motor feeling state’, which is ‘aversive’, but separate from secondary distress due to the continuation of pain despite the initial response. Pain facial expression seems to be part of a global flexor contraction of writhing or squirming, which may spill over into the facial musculature (Frijda, 2002; Panksepp and Pasqualini, 2002). One difficulty facing this challenge is that no such whole body behaviors have been described that are specific to pain in humans or in domestic or laboratory animals (Williams, 2002).

        Moreover, given that the face is the primary target of visual attention between humans and provides a dynamic, embodied expression of pain and emotion in human interactions (Cole, 1997, 2001), some justification is required for collapsing pain facial expression into gross motor activity in connection to stimuli (Williams, 2002). Wittgenstein (1958b) makes a related point that if a person has hurt his hand, he may nurse his hand, but we comfort him: ‘…if someone has a pain in his hand, then the hand does not say so (unless it writes it) and one does not comfort the hand, but the sufferer: one looks into his face’ (Wittgenstein, 1958b, §286). It is not the body that is in pain, but the human being. Available evidence shows that the face in pain is highly salient for observers who ranked the eyes the most important feature, followed by brows, eyelids, mouth, head, forehead, and then other body parts (Prkachin et al., 1983).

        Closely related to the question of a specific pain facial expression in the individual is its detection and interpretation by observers. Judgment of pain in another person relies heavily on facial cues: brow lowering, eye blinking, cheek raise, and upper lip raise are used consistently by observers to judge pain in adults and in children (Craig et al., 1991). There is evidence of reasonably accurate identification of pain expression in adults and infants employing these facial cues (e.g., Prkachin et al. 1994).

The overlap between pain and other emotions concerning the activated facial action units, however, challenges the evidence for the detection of the pain face. After all, when people are in pain, their faces may express a blend of emotions including fear, anger, disgust, surprise, and so on, reflecting a ‘fuzzy’ emotional state of distress or discomfort, rather than expressing the specific experience of pain. It does not follow, however, that sharing of AUs across expressions renders observers unable to distinguish anger from fear or sadness. After all, detection and interpretation only have to be effective, not perfect (cf. Wittgenstein, 1958b, §79d). This may support the claim, made earlier, that the pain face expression is accurately described as an indeterminate or ‘fuzzy’ set than a fixed prototype.

Paper 5: Moebius Syndrome and pain catastrophizing

Description:

Pain intensity is strongly connected to the associated sense of danger and avoidance from physical threat (Wittgenstein, 1958b). An individual expressing pain may receive benefit when that expression is followed by protective actions by observers (Craig, 2004). However, pain expression is not merely the function of inner observation or recognition of private experiences (Wittgenstein, 1958b, 1980b, 1982). The interpersonal context may be essential in explaining how and when pain is expressed. The concept of pain is connected to pain behavior in circumstances of tissue damage or pathology (Wittgenstein, 1958b), but also involves diverse social reactions, ranging from supportive or empathic responses to interpersonal distancing and loss of relatedness, punishment, or even exploitation of vulnerability (Williams, 2002). When negative reactions to pain behavior are anticipated, suppression of pain expression might arise (Williams, 2002). In the presence of solicitous others, by contrast, one might expect robust pain expression (Morley et al., 2000).

In those in whom social support is the norm, pain catastrophizing may also occur. This is defined as ‘an exaggerated negative orientation towards actual or anticipated pain experiences’ (Sullivan et al., 1995), and can be a major determinant of the intrapersonal features of pain, including heightened pain intensity, distress and disability (Sullivan et al., 2001). It is also claimed that pain catastrophizing has interpersonal features such that those who catastrophize about pain seek social support by robust expression of pain, because of perceived danger (Sullivan et al., 2006). The presence of others may then function as a discriminative cue for the expression of pain in those who catastrophize about pain.

How social presence affects pain behavior in adults with congenital facial paralysis is unknown. In this paper we report the experiences of social presence on pain expression in adults with Möbius syndrome, and the extent to which it is moderated by any tendency to catastrophize about pain. Due to the various features associated with Möbius syndrome, including facial immobility, interactions with other people can be difficult to achieve and sustain (Briegel, 2006). They are at higher risk of experiencing rejection or lack of reinforcement, especially with unknown others. These experiences can lead to low self-esteem, behavioral problems (e.g., episodic dyscontrol) and even psychiatric disorders (Cole, 1997, 1999, 2001).

In addition to these potential problems with communication of pain, there is also evidence that some with Möbius have altered or reduced emotional experience (Cole and Spalding, 2008). This might also modify their expression of negative experiences like pain. Given these overlapping problems, expression, experience and relatedness to others, we investigated the effects of social presence, emotional experience and pain experience and expression in those with Möbius. This is a rare syndrome and we felt that the best way to approach this initially was through extended narrative, though we have also used well known inventories of emotional experience and pain.

We expected that it may be likely that adults with Möbius would show more pain behavior in the presence of a significant other than in the presence of a stranger, and that this would be most pronounced in adults who frequently catastrophize or exaggerate the threat value of pain sensations. 

Please note: This proposal requires ethical approval.

 

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47. Turk, D.C., & Rudy, T.E. 1992. Cognitive factors and persistent pain: a glimpse into Pandora’s box. Cognitive Therapy Research, 16, 99-122.

48. Wierzbicka, A. 2000. The semantics of human facial expressions. Pragmatics and Cognition 8(1), 147-183.

49. Wierzbicka, A. 1999. Emotions across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

50. Williams, Amanda C. de C. 2002. Facial expression of pain: An evolutionary account. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 25, 439-488.

51. Wittgenstein, L. 1958. The Blue and Brown Books. Oxford: Blackwell.

52. Wittgenstein, L. 1958b. Philosophical Investigations. ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and R.Rhees. tr. G.E.M. Anscombe, 2nd edition. Oxford: Blackwell.

53. Wittgenstein, L. 1967. Zettel. ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, tr. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

54. Wittgenstein, L. 1969. On Certainty. ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, tr. D. Paul and G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

55. Wittgenstein, L. 1980a. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume I, ed. G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright, tr. G.E.M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell.

56. Wittgenstein, L. 1980b. Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume II, ed. G.H. von Wright and H. Nyman, tr. C.G. Luckhart and M.A.E. Aue. Oxford: Blackwell.

57. Wittgenstein, L. 1982. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume I, ed. G.H. von Wright and H. Nyman, tr. C.G. Luckhart and M.A.E. Aue. Oxford: Blackwell.

58. Wittgenstein, L. 1992. Last Writings on the Philosophy of Psychology, Volume II, ed. G.H. von Wright and H. Nyman, tr. C.G. Luckhart and M.A.E. Aue. Oxford: Blackwell.

59. Zeman, J., Garber, J. 1996. Display rules for anger, sadness, and pain: it depends on who is watching. Child Development, 67, 957-973.

 

 

The International Wittgenstein Conference in Taiwan will take place on November 7-8, 2008, in Taipei City, Taiwan, with the support of the Logic, Mind and Methodology (LMM) Group of the Department of Philosophy, National Taiwan University. 

This conference is proudly associated with the 80th Anniversary celebrations of National Taiwan University. 

List of Presenters 

Kai-Yuan Cheng
Department of Philosophy, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan
A New Look at the Skeptical Solution of Rule-Following: Lessons from a Generic Study

Leo Cheung
Baptist University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The Tractatus and the Problem of the Unity of the Proposition

Byron Kaldis
Hellenic Open University, Greece
Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: Logical Scaffolding and Formal Ontology

David MacArthur
University of Sydney, Australia
Is Wittgenstein an Expressivist?

David McCarty
Indiana University, USA
Rule-following and Other Fallacies

Michael Mi
Soochow University, Taiwan
Climbing Ladders or Following Rules

Eric Oberheim
Humboldt University, Germany
Wittgenstein and Feyerabend

Nico Orlandi
Rice University, USA
Aspect-Seeing: Wittgenstein and Explanation in Psychology

Marcelo Stamm
University of Tasmania, Australia
Wittgenstein’s Topology: The Seat of the Soul

Simon van Rysewyk
Shih Hsin University, Taiwan
Wittgenstein and the consequences of facial paralysis

Christian Wenzel
National Chi Nan University, Taiwan
Wittgenstein and Meaning Blindness

Daniel Whiting
University of Southampton, UK
The Normativity of Meaning Defended

Jeu-Jenq Yuann
National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Wittgenstein and Popper on the Idea of Negation

Feng-Wei Wu
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, National Science Council, Taiwan
Making up as We Go along-Wittgenstein and Ethics

The IWCT webpage is here.

The difficulty of philosophy, Wittgenstein once suggested, is knowing when to stop.

The question ‘What is philosophy?’ can itself be questioned, and these question marks in turn can be scutinzed for their appeal and suitability, and so on. It might be asked, for instance, why the subject should be represented in necessary and sufficient conditions; conditions coupled to some metaphysical object hovering tantilizingly above our heads – a thing which no one sees, but which we think is not entirely imperceptible. This question may appeal to some philosophers, others not, while it may repel some in the strongest sense. What one conceives the subject to be is more often than not a question of personal temperament, of ‘how things are settled in me’.

In any event, there are as many conceptions of philosophy as there are philosophers, which may be a clue, for in practice the subject lacks the formal unity of the sciences.  Whatever else we conceive it to be, philosophy is thoroughly interrogative, which may not in itself be a terribly illuminating thing to say, except that when we remember that a philosopher is someone who primarily thinks the question, not the answer to the question. For it is of course a further question what an ‘answer’ to a philosophical question can be or looks like, what face it presents to our searching eyes, how to take it in, or even what to do with it tomorrow. And the great lack of consensus among philosophers, which is typical in most philosophical discussions, certainly complicates matters even more.

Wittgenstein also said, autobiographically, that a philosopher is a citizen of no community in particular. Well, that simply goes for him. And others like him (Nietzsche). In my humble view, philosophy can be a joy. And the joy of it lies in the valued membership others grant me as part of an intellectual community of like-minded individuals, who form my philosophical millieu, and with whom I exchange and above all share questions, points of view, scraps of logic, remembrances, distant visions and lost horizons.  The sharing of it all is key, I believe. But, why?

The International Wittgenstein Conference in Taiwan will take place in Taipei City, 11/7-11/8, 2008 in association with the Section of Logic, Mind, and Methodology, Department of Philosophy, National Taiwan University.

We are proud to offer this unique event as part of the 80th Anniversary celebrations of National Taiwan University.

Speakers:

Kai-Yuan Cheng (National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan)
Leo Cheung (Baptist University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Byron Kaldis (Hellenic Open University, Greece)
David MacArthur (University of Sydney, Australia)
David MacCarty (Indiana University, USA)
Eric Oberheim (Humboldt University, Germany)
Nicoletta Orlandi (Rice University, USA)
Marcelo Stamm (University of Tasmania, Australia)
Simon van Rysewyk (Shih Hsin University, Taiwan)
Christian Wenzel (National Chi Nan University, Taiwan)
Daniel Whiting (University of Southampton, UK)
Fengway Wu (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, National Science Council, Taiwan)
Jeu-Jeng Yuann (National Taiwan University, Taiwan)

The conference website will be operational in one week.

 

 


Alexander Waugh, author

The Independent, Friday, September 26, 2008

One can understand why Alexander Waugh, himself a scion of a famous family, should have been interested in the Wittgenstein dynasty of Vienna. But the correct analogy for this ill-starred sept is surely the house of Atreus. The multi-millionaire Karl Wittgenstein, an iron and steel magnate, fathered nine children, one of whom died in her first month. The eight survivors were singularly unhappy, prone to cancers and all neurotic at the very least; most of them undoubtedly crossed the border into psychosis. 

Hermine, the eldest child, was a repressed spinster who dabbled amateurishly in painting. Gretl, the youngest daughter, fell prey to an American wastrel who married her for money. She was sexually frigid and consulted psychoanalysts about her problems, which were compounded when her schizoid husband lost all her money in the 1929 Wall Street crash.

Waugh claims that Gretl was the warmest, kindest and most humorous Wittgenstein, but also the bossiest, most ambitious and worldly. The most normal was Helene, who married a civil servant. But it is the brothers who really fascinate Waugh. Three committed suicide, and Waugh is good on the cult of self-slaughter in fin-de-siècle Vienna after the famous suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress at Mayerling in 1889.

That leaves the concert pianist Paul and the philosopher Ludwig as the core of Waugh’s excellent book. Paul lost his right arm in the First World War and survived the horrors of Siberia as a prisoner of war until his influential family pulled strings to get him repatriated. He spent the vast fortune inherited from Karl in payment to famous composers (Ravel, Prokofiev, Korngold, Richard Strauss) to persuade them to write concerti for the left hand. Some of these episodes read like black comedy by Flann O’Brien. Paul took the line that because he had bought these works, he had the right to bowdlerise them as he saw fit.

Predictably, his relations with the composers were tense, not aided by his prima donna antics. Because classical music is Waugh’s great love, it is not surprising he finds Paul by far the most interesting of the Wittgensteins. He claims that Paul was a first-rate pianist, though the consensus seems to be that he was guilty of distortions in his playing and did not allow a composer’s music to speak for itself.

Entire review is here.

Studies using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS; Ekman & Friesen, 1978) reveal a combination of facial expressions that appear to be specific to acute pain and that reveal the connection between pain facial expression and pain (Craig, 1980; Prkachin, 1992; Prkachin and Solomon, 2008). Core action units (AUs) in adults are brow lowering (corrugator: AU 4), cheek raise and lid tighten (both parts of orbicularis oculi: AU6 and 7), nose wrinkle and upper lip-raise (both parts of levator labii: AU 9 and 10), and eye closing (AU43) (Craig et al., 1992). It has been suggested that pain facial expression is a combination of the core actions along with a limited range of other actions; an expression that is better described as an indeterminate set than a fixed prototype (Prkachin & Craig, 1995). In naturalistic settings, we find it easier to describe a person as ‘in pain’ than to describe his facial features or behavior in precise physical terms, and we do not typically infer psychologically relevant descriptions of pain from austere physical ones (Wittgenstein, 1980a, 1992). For we often know the conclusions of such alleged inferences without knowing their premises (Wittgenstein, 1980a).

Objections to the specificity of the pain face suggest that it forms part of a whole body defensive response to pain, an effort to withdraw from the stimulus and to protect the body. Salzen (2002) claims that pain facial expression consisting of tension in the facial flexor muscles, contraction of the eyes, retraction of the lips, and clenched teeth is part of a general body flexor reaction. This is based on the idea that pain facial expression is a ‘sensory-motor feeling state’, which is ‘aversive’, but separate from secondary distress due to the continuation of pain despite the initial response. Pain facial expression seems to be part of a global flexor contraction of writhing or squirming, which may spill over into the facial musculature (Frijda, 2002; Panksepp and Pasqualini, 2002). One difficulty facing this challenge is that no such whole body behaviors have been described that are specific to pain in humans or in domestic or laboratory animals (Williams, 2002).

Moreover, given that the face is the primary target of visual attention between humans and provides a dynamic, embodied expression of pain and emotion in human interactions (Cole, 1997, 2001), some justification is required for collapsing pain facial expression into gross motor activity in connection to stimuli (Williams, 2002). Wittgenstein (1958b) makes a related point that if a person has hurt his hand, he may nurse his hand, but we comfort him: ‘…if someone has a pain in his hand, then the hand does not say so (unless it writes it) and one does not comfort the hand, but the sufferer: one looks into his face’ (Wittgenstein, 1958b, §286). It is not the body that is in pain, but the human being. Available evidence shows that the face in pain is highly salient for observers who ranked the eyes the most important feature, followed by brows, eyelids, mouth, head, forehead, and then other body parts (Prkachin et al., 1983).

Closely related to the question of a specific pain facial expression in the individual is its detection and interpretation by observers. Judgment of pain in another person relies heavily on facial cues: brow lowering, eye blinking, cheek raise, and upper lip raise are used consistently by observers to judge pain in adults and in children (Craig et al., 1991). There is evidence of reasonably accurate identification of pain expression in adults and infants employing these facial cues (e.g., Prkachin et al. 1994).

The overlap between pain and other emotions concerning the activated facial action units, however, challenges the evidence for the detection of the pain face. After all, when people are in pain, their faces may express a blend of emotions including fear, anger, disgust, surprise, and so on, reflecting a ‘fuzzy’ emotional state of distress or discomfort, rather than expressing the specific experience of pain. It does not follow, however, that sharing of AUs across expressions renders observers unable to distinguish anger from fear or sadness. After all, detection and interpretation only have to be effective, not perfect (cf. Wittgenstein, 1958b, §79d). This may support the claim, made earlier, that the pain face expression is accurately described as an indeterminate or ‘fuzzy’ set than a fixed prototype.       

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