By, Adam K. Fetterman
One of the most anticipated matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup took place on the second day of the tournament. The US and England faced off and ended the game in a 1 – 1 tie. Both teams should be happy with the result. While the US is definitely happy, as they were considered the underdogs, England does not share the enthusiasm. With a one point lead, the goalkeeper from England, the game’s proclaimed country of origin, allowed an easily blocked ball to sneak into the goal off the foot of one of their US rivals, a country in which soccer has yet to catch on. The disappointment over the goal, and the subsequent tie with the little favored underdog, left despair on the faces of those associated with the team. Indeed, the news media and bloggers have devoted much space to writing and showing pictures of dejected England players, including goalkeeper Robert Green and injured star David Beckham.
The facial expressions depicted in these images can give us insight to what these men were feeling. When someone sees a facial expression of emotion humans automatically mimic the expression of positive and negative emotion (Dimberg, Thunberg, & Elmehed, 2000). Through these mimicked facial movements, we are able to recognize the emotion being expressed. Therefore, when someone sees a picture of a sad-faced David Beckham, then one can get an idea of how he is feeling in that moment. In fact, we may even be able to feel what he is feeling. Ruys and Stapel (2008) showed that facial expressions are indeed emotion messengers, but are also emotion elicitors. So, one may feel bad for Robert Green when presented with his saddened face. However, since facial recognition acts the same with positive emotions (Dimberg et al., 2000), a different emotion would likely be recognized on US soccer players’ and fans’ faces: Happiness.