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The Face of Fear Explained

June 16, 2008
clipped from

Everyone knows the face of fear.

Upon beholding the chainsaw-wielding ax-murderer in a
slasher movie, the damsel in distress usually widens her eyes and flares her
nostrils in horror.

It turns out this expression isn’t merely for cinematic
, but actually serves a biological function, scientists have found,
by altering the way our senses perceive the world.

“Our hypothesis was that different changes on the face
would lead to different amounts of sensory intake,” said Joshua Susskind,
a psychology graduate student at the University of Toronto who worked on a
study testing the function of facial expressions. “The idea is that fear
is for vigilance. You’d expect that changes on the face, such as opening the
eyes, would be characteristic of fear, because you’re trying to assess more
information in your environment.”

Squinty eyes and
pinched nose
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