Emotionally Ambiguous (2.14 - 2.23.17) By: Keely Ash

Way of Knowing: Emotion

Are Emotions Universal?

Method & Analysis

We showed 20 people from different cultures (american, asian, middle eastern, european, and african) different photos of the six primary emotions (fear, anger, sadness, surprise, happiness, and disgust). Our goal was to detect how differently/similarly people from different cultures detected the emotions. We found that near 100% of people detected the same emotions from the different pictures. Apart from a couple of people who were having a bad day so they twisted the images in a negative way and vice versa. We proved our hypothesis that people from different cultures detected the same, if not similar, emotion from pictures.





I just finished reading Chapter 7 the Emotion as a way of knowing in our ToK textbook. It offered up a range of different perspectives on emotion and how you can gain knowledge from emotion. What I found interesting in the textbook, was the negativity bias. This is basically how you focus on all of the bad things that happen to you then the good things. For instance, you’re more likely to focus on a bad grade than you are to focus on a good grade. Even in the primary emotions, four out of six are negative. Now I just need to read the prescribed titles and pass the quiz so my group can begin our Badge Project.


I was discussing with my group and we decided that we will choose the essential question Are Emotions Universal? For this we will, show people from different cultures a picture of a person with an ambiguous facial expression. We will then ask them what they see or think this person’s emotion is at that point. We infer that people from different cultures will sense the person’s emotion differently. However, we were also thinking instead of giving the participants a picture we may read them a scenario. Then we will ask what they think the overall tone/emotion the scenario has. For instance, we will read a paragraph about a father walking his daughter/son down the aisle, for their wedding. We will then ask the participants what they think the tone/emotion of this scenario is. We might just show the participants the pictures. This way it will be more emotion centered, then language centered. Plus, showing them the pictures will be simpler to recreate than having to read paragraphs to different participants.


I just finished watch the TED talk that was about an app that can detect what your current emotion is. I really enjoyed watching the video. The woman talking, her main point was how emotions affect how we learn, communicate, and make decisions. She mentioned that technology has separated us from our emotions, and changes how we communicate with others and they don’t know how we feel. She wanted to create a way in which we can change that. In the TED talk she demos an app/chip in an iPad that can detect someone’s facial expressions in real-time. (https://www.ted.com/talks/rana_el_kaliouby_this_app_knows_how_you_feel_from_the_look_on_your_face?language=en#t-651873)


Our main point for our Way of Knowing Badge 2 is how people with different backgrounds perceive emotions (facial expressions) differently. Our essential question that is driving our projects is “Are emotions universal?” Our plan is to select a few people from very different areas (eg. China, the United States, England, etc.” and we will show them various different photos each with an ambiguous type of emotion displayed on their face. We will then ask them what they see and why. We hope by doing this, we will gain more knowledge on how people from different areas around the world perceive emotions and why. We are on our way to finishing the Badge Project, however we need to polish off some of the ideas we have and finally interview and choose the participants. I hope we will be able to finish this by thursday.


We just presented our Emotion Presentation, I think it went well. We went first so hopefully Morrison goes a little easier on us. We had quite a bit of data, however I forgot to take photos/videos/audio recordings of us performing the “experiment.” Thankfully, Chris took some audio recordings of him interviewing the participants, so hopefully I could ask him to give me one of the recordings to put on my digital portfolio. However, I think I will just redo the interviewing but take photos or a video of me doing it. That way it will be my evidence not someone else’s. I learned a lot about emotion as a Way of Knowing through this presentation. For instance, there are six primary emotions and I learned that emotions depend on the person and their perspective. It isn’t concrete. It was interesting to learn about it and I hope to investigate the WOK more.

Knowledge Questions Encountered

Where Do Emotions Come From?

How Can Emotions Be An Obstacle To Knowledge?

We ran into many knowledge questions throughout our project. These two we thought were the most important. My group debated on where emotions come from. One person stated that they come from genetics and we are born with them. However, another member said they were formed through our experiences and lives. I think it's a bit of both. We are born with a set of emotion, the six primary emotions (disgust, surprise, happiness, anger, fear, and sadness). However, we also gain different emotions through our experiences and perspective on life. We debated on

Extension Proposal

Results & Analysis

Created By
Keely ASH

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