photo by Flickr's SimpleInsomnia

photo by SimpleInsomnia

S+ Stimulant: Innate Abilities


In 2008, a group of researchers analyzed thousands of photographs of blind and sighted athletes at the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games, attempting to discover if facial expressions in response to joy or sadness differed between the two groups — in short, if our emotional responses come from nature or nurture. The study demonstrated that:

There were no differences between congenitally blind, noncongenitally blind, and sighted athletes, either on the level of individual facial actions or in facial emotion configurations. … These findings provide compelling evidence that the production of spontaneous facial expressions of emotion is not dependent on observational learning.

In short, smiling is innate. We are all born with this capacity and instinct, and it doesn’t develop as a result of environmental conditioning. We don’t learn it — we’ve always known it.

In our years of formal schooling, we are shown what we don’t know. Grades reflect our knowledge as a percentage of a whole, we specialize in some subjects and leave others behind, and the external ideas we acquire seem to become our database of abilities.

But perhaps this system causes us to ignore the things we’ve known all along — our own innate abilities. Our body and mind are hard-wired with millions of capacities whose brilliance we underestimate. Discovering that even those that are blind are able to smile sparks a vast range of possibilities — what things that we assumed to be impossible are actually built into our DNA?

In an age where knowledge and abilities are often seen to develop us from the outside in, why not seek to improve from the inside out? Surprise yourself — explore what you’re already capable of.



Photo Credit: Smiling little boy in a suit by SimpleInsomnia on Flickr

Source: Matsumoto and Willingham, Spontaneous Facial Expressions of Emotion of Congenitally and Noncongenitally Blind Individuals


L.N. 2016

Published: May 26th, 2016

Previous in this series:

PLAY x PLAY: Kai Carlson-Wee

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