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Facial Expressions and Cartooning October 19, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Books, Cartooning, Education, Massachusetts Drivers, Other.
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In response to the interesting comments of Nannette and David B. Dale I have only a few insights into this.  As a guy who is coming to think of himself as a high-fuctioning (at least some of the time) autistic, some sort of early education into what various facial expressions mean might indeed have been helpful.  Perhaps the sort of education Nannette suggests, whereby children are asked to draw cartoon characters with various emotional states.  If I recall correctly, Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence, which I liked quite a bit when I read it some years ago, did not spill much ink regarding that subject. 

My son was engaged in some sort of role-playing activity in school yesterday that did something very similar.  They were asked to fight over a pencil in the way that younger kids in the school would, and then asked to disagree about the possession of it afterward in the way older kids were expected to.  It’s a pretty good Montessori school, so they do this kind of stuff all the time.  My son, primarily due to my wife’s constant attention and influence, seems to read people much more consistently well than I did as a child.

David describes a scene where apparently he and the traffic cop felt threatened and they worked it out by means of facial expressions.  That sort of exchange has the potential to ruin my day.  I learned to drive in California, where driving decisions are primarily mediated by traffic signals and rights of way (well, that’s the way it was in the early 1980s).  Now I live out here in Massachusetts, where rights of way are negotiated on an almost constant basis.  Waves of hands and subtextual cues and traditions that I find it hard to fathom and that I resent quite a bit. 

For example, people often expect that in intersections where there is no left-turn-only arrow signals, oncoming traffic is expected (by tradition?) to let the first car facing them to turn left in front of them.  Often, people behind them will take advantage of tentative, hesitant drivers to follow that left-turning car until the oncoming car (the one who has had the right of way legally the whole time) asserts itself by plowing forward into the cars turning left.  The whole thing seems incredibly dangerous to me.

I guess cars have gestures, although I suspect they are not so anthropomorphic as the ones exhibited in that recent children’s movie.  But I miss the days of driving on the west coast where I didn’t have to read them.

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