Seeing What Isn’t There

What sex is your brain? That’s the question a BBC programme, Secrets of the Sexes, asked a short while ago. I didn’t see it but a number of people pointed me at an online quiz based on the programme. Not surprisingly, given my profession, I scored quite highly on the skills supposedly belonging to ‘female brains’.
What did surprise me was the part of the test concerned with reading the emotions expressed in a face when all you have to go on is the eyes. I looked at each pair of eyes as they were shown and the four candidates for the hidden emotion and was truly stumped. I didn’t have a clue which to choose. In the end I guessed.
Now I happen to have seen a similar test before and knew its origins in studies of Asperger’s Syndrome and autism so I was feeling quite glum to discover my inability to read faces–especially given my work in spiritual direction. Each pair of eyes that flashed up deepened my sense of ignorance.
The shock was then to discover that I had actually managed an almost perfect score. I got one set wrong. Apparently I can read the emotions in the eyes but I have no conscious access to how I’m doing it. I can’t see or recognise any cues. I don’t even feel a hunch or a sense of intuition. But my wild guesses are spot on. I even went back and did it again in case it was all blind luck.
Very strange. I’ve long been aware of the tacit knowledge my body has and I’ve learned to trust my ‘intuition’ in many situations but this is the first time I’ve found that trusting my ignorance has been so reliable!