UMass Dartmouth’s Fugate to aid in new Malcolm Gladwell book

JENNIFER FUGATE, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is in consultation with journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell for his new book, “Talking with Strangers.” / COURTESY UMASS DARTMOUTH/LEVANTE BILLINGS-ANDERSON
JENNIFER FUGATE, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, is in consultation with journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell for his new book, “Talking with Strangers.” / COURTESY UMASS DARTMOUTH/LEVANTE BILLINGS-ANDERSON

DARTMOUTH – University of Massachusetts Dartmouth psychology professor Jennifer Fugate is in consultation with Malcolm Gladwell, a New York-based, Canadian-born journalist and author of “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without,” for his new book, “Talking with Strangers,” the school announced last week.

“From what I know, Gladwell’s book is a story about how we all arrive at impressions of other people, including their innocence and guilt,” Fugate said in a statement of the yet-to-be-released tome.

According to the school, Gladwell reached out to Fugate because of her research into emotional and facial perception as well as her expertise in the Facial Action Coding System. Known as FACS, this tool is a system for describing observable facial movements.

“It’s not every day that one of the world’s most prolific authors contacts you for your expertise,” said Fugate of the multiple conversations she has had with Gladwell. “We spoke several times about his new book, its major theme and how the skills I have as a certified [FACS] coder could help him elucidate his point about how we make determinations of a person’s guilt based on the cues they provide us.”

- Advertisement -

As a certified FACS coder, in her prepared remarks Fugate said she “warn[s] against using anatomically based movements as indicators that a discrete emotion has occurred. … I ascribe to a view in which emotions are constructed when a person uses his or her experience and language to make meaning of more basic ‘cues’ in his or her environment. I say ‘cues’ and not ‘signals’ because they contribute to the categories of perception but do not define them.”

Fugate joined the UMass Dartmouth psychology department in 2012 and focuses much of her research on “what our brains are doing cognitively – behind the scenes – during a very quick moment of emotion perception.”

Gladwell’s “Blink” was a UMass Dartmouth first-year English reading project for incoming freshmen in 2011.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.