SCMP, February 4, 2003 By Patsy Moy Smile and the world smiles with you. But scowl in Hong Kong and a lot of people may not realise what is going through your mind, a university study has found. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong have found Americans and Beijing residents are better at detecting anger in people's faces than Hong Kong people, but Hong Kong people are better than Americans at spotting contempt. Tang Siu-wa, head of the university's department of psychiatry and a member of the Hong Kong research team, said many Asian people were not used to being confronted with anger as Asians tended to hide negative feelings. However, Professor Tang said Chinese people were particularly sensitive to levels of respect in their culture and paid more attention to looks of contempt and disgust. More than 200 Hong Kong residents, 237 people from Beijing, 123 Japanese and 271 Americans were shown photographs of people with different expressions. The findings showed that only 58.1 per cent of those from Hong Kong sampled in the research could correctly identify anger - slightly better than the Japanese participants (56.3 per cent), but worse than Chinese from Beijing (65.5 per cent) and the Americans (85.6 per cent). Many people mistook the angry look as disgust. However, nearly 70 per cent of those from Hong Kong could identify contempt, compared with 73.2 per cent among their counterparts from Beijing, while Americans (62.6 per cent) and Japanese people (55.2 per cent) lagged behind. As for the expression of disgust, 73.1 per cent of Hong Kong people were able to identify it, which was lower than Americans (81 per cent) but more than those from Beijing (49.7 per cent) and the Japanese (63.7 per cent). Professor Tang attributed the discrepancy in the findings between Hong Kong and mainland Chinese to different levels of cultural exposure, pointing out that Hong Kong Chinese residents had more chance to observe Westerners under the former British colonial regime. The findings also showed smiling faces symbolising happiness were the easiest to identify, with an accuracy rate of more than 90 per cent across the board. However, the Japanese were found to be the poorest in spotting a range of expressions, including fear (44.5 per cent) and sadness (66.6 per cent). 'Japanese are mostly trained to be polite and carry a smiling face, therefore, it is very difficult, even among themselves, to spot each others' feelings, such as anger or contempt,' Professor Tang explained. However, he warned that the failure to identify people's expressions could lead to misunderstandings and even business problems. 'For example, it will create trouble if employees fail to see when their bosses are unhappy,' Professor Tang said. 'It could create even bigger trouble if a judge mistakes the facial expression of a person as contempt and finds that person guilty of contempt of court.' Glossary scowl (v) to frown in an angry or bad-tempered way spot (v) to notice something among other things contempt (n) dislike and disregard Contempt of court means open disrespect for judicial authority. In Hong Kong, it is a liability crime, so intention is presumed. The rule seeks to uphold the rule of law rather than protect judges' feelings. It ensures a fair hearing. In 1998, the former chief editor of the Oriental Daily News, Wong Yeung-ng, was jailed for four months and the Oriental Press Group was fined $5 million for contempt of court by taking part in a campaign that sent paparazzi-style photographers trailing a High Court judge and writing articles deemed to be insulting to the judiciary. In November 2000, the Apple Daily was fined $100,000 for contempt of court after publishing a prejudicial article that caused a murder trial to collapse. lag behind (phrasal v) to not keep pace with others attribute (v) to regard something as being caused by discrepancy (n) disagreement between facts and figures Discussion points ? Are you good at reading people's expressions? If so, how do you go about it? Does it improve your relations with others? Give examples. If your answer is no, do you find it difficult to communicate? State your views. ? 'Many Asian people were not used to being confronted with anger as Asians tend to hide negative feelings.' - Tang Siu-wa, head of the university's department of psychiatry. Comment on the statement.