Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and ...

In "Brain detects happiness more quickly than sadness" (Eurekalert), we learn:
The results, published in the latest issue of the journal Laterality, show that the right hemisphere performs better in processing emotions. "However, this advantage appears to be more evident when it comes to processing happy and surprised faces than sad or frightened ones", the researcher points out.

"Positive expressions, or expressions of approach, are perceived more quickly and more precisely than negative, or withdrawal, ones. So happiness and surprise are processed faster than sadness and fear", explains Aznar-Casanova.
The finding doesn't particularly support the famous "left brain, right brain" thesis, that is so embedded in popular culture that even your cousin, who never reads a book, knows about it.
Two theories are currently "competing" to explain the pattern of cerebral asymmetry in processing emotions. The older one postulates the dominance of the right hemisphere in the processing of emotions, while the second is based on the approach-withdrawal hypothesis, which holds that the pattern of cerebral asymmetry depends upon the emotion in question, in other words that each hemisphere is better at processing particular emotions (the right, withdrawal, and the left, approach).
When we are miserable, we should seek out people we believe to be right-brained (chances are they will intuit our needs), and when we are happy, we should go to the races with people who are left-brained. (And get them to help us decide where to place our bets).

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allen at Brains on Purpose

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