Imagine you’re at an event and you make a joke—and the person next to you makes a face. What does it mean? Did they think your joke was funny, insensitive, or just confusing? In situations like this, reading facial expressions is important—even when they flit by quickly. How you read an expression usually determines how you react, and often, reading it correctly can make the difference between a socially satisfying moment and a socially awkward moment. Such moments add up to define overall social savvy, comfort in social situations, and self-confidence around others.
Face to Face, from BrainHQ’s People Skills category, is designed to exercise the social cognition network in your brain by pushing you to correctly interpret facial expressions. In Face to Face, a face shows briefly on screen. You decide what expression you think it shows. Then you see a set of faces and choose the one showing the same expression as the first face you saw.
Here’s how the exercise works:
- A face will briefly appear on screen, and then disappear. Identify the expression this face is making.
- Several faces will be displayed. Select the face that expresses a similar emotion to the face that briefly appeared in Step 1 above.
If an incorrect answer is given, you’ll hear a “bonk” sound, the correct answer will be shown on screen, and the target face in the following turns may appear for a longer amount of time. If a correct answer is given, you’ll hear a “boop” sound and the target face in following turns may appear for a shorter amount of time. In both cases, the level then continues, repeating from Step 1 above.
You can review the exercise video tutorial below:
We also have a recording of a live demonstration of this exercise here:
One question often comes up for people using Face to Face: how did you assign emotions to these faces? This was the process:
- The actor was asked to make a particular face.
- A series of people—both scientists and average citizens—were asked to rate the expressions. If they agreed on the expression a photo showed, the photo moved on. If they didn’t agree, the photo was cut.
- A facial expression recognition expert reviewed the photos.
Despite this careful process, you might find yourself disagreeing with a particular categorization. For instance, you might see a face assigned to the “neutral” category that you think is sad. That happens sometimes—and you aren’t necessarily wrong (though the exercise might say you are!), but you do see it differently than most people. We needed to have challenging expressions included; if they were too easy, the exercise would let your brain relax, rather than challenging it to perceive more and more nuance.
As you progress through Face to Face, it becomes more challenging in these ways:
- More emotions can be added, we start with 3-4 and work our way up to 11 different emotions
- The number of faces to choose from increases
- The view of the face changes - sometimes the person is looking directly ahead, other times they’re looking off to the side