I’ve just started reading a new book named ‘The Psychopath Test‘ by Jon Ronson, and it seems both entertaining and interesting.
In the first chapter Ronson describes an episode during a visit to the University College London School of Psychology where some neuro-psychology related research takes place. Here he was told about one of the researchers who interviews psychopaths. It went like this:
I heard a story about [the researcher] once … She was interviewing a psychopath. She showed him a picture of a frightened face and asked him to identify the emotion. He said he didn’t know what the emotion was but it was the face people pulled just before he killed them.
Now whether or not someone actually said this in an interview, it is obviously a joke and not meant to be taken seriously. But it reminded me of my own issues with identifying certain emotions – and sometimes all emotions if they’re not strongly enough expressed. I thought of the interviews I’ve been through and the questions I’ve been asked about how the people I’ve killed looked during the event and right before I killed them.
The ‘funny’ thing about this is that people generally don’t look very frightened when the moment comes and they know that now they’ll die. I’ve seen people look much more afraid when they get startled, f.x. by a sudden entry of someone they’re afraid of. But even then it’s not that simple, because fear and surprise can look very much alike, so maybe it’s more about me reading my expectations into their expressions based on the knowledge I have about whether or not they’re afraid of me/someone already before they get startled.
I made a search on expressions of fear with the intention of finding one or more pictures where people have the expression I’ve seen on the faces of those I killed.
There weren’t many that really resembled the expressions I remember. Most of the photos were exaggerated expressions performed for the purpose of showing as clearly as possible what fear looks like.
But I found a couple of pictures that somewhat conveys how people really look in the situations that I have been witness to, their expressions just before I killed them, but also a few occasions where I wasn’t the killer but an observer. The picture above is the one that comes closest, especially to my own three experiences with seeing people in this kind of situation.
As the Reader will probably agree, the woman looks more slightly surprised than afraid. I wouldn’t personally identify her expression as fear, but it was on the page among the pictures and photos of people expressing fear.