This week, Amanda Knox gave her first TV interview. She’s the American study abroad student accused of killing her roommate in Perugia, Italy. The evidence against her is largely circumstantial, but she was initially convicted of murder, a sentence later overturned, but now her case is to be re-tried in Italy. Most observers agree that she was convicted due to her body language and demeanor. She didn’t seem remorseful or even caring. Ian Leslie in the Guardian commented on the rush to judgment based on observing and interpreting her expressions:
“Most of us know, when we reflect rationally, that other people are as complex and difficult to read or predict as we are, and we do compensate for the natural imbalance in our encounters with others. The trouble is, we rarely compensate enough. Thinking about what others might be thinking and feeling is hard work. It requires intellectual application, empathy, and imagination. Most of the time we can barely be bothered to exert such efforts on behalf of our friends and partners, let alone on people we read about in the news. We fall back on guesses, stereotypes, and prejudices. This is inevitable, and not always a bad thing. The trouble comes when we confuse our short-cuts with judgment.”
It’s certainly the case that we don’t all express our emotions the same way. Sometimes this is partly culturally determined (Japanese stoicism) but may be absolutely personal as well. We expect traumatized humans to act in a certain way and perhaps most of us do. When someone fails to follow the code, we get suspicious. It could be that this is even more the case for women, whom we expect to show their emotions more than men. This was certainly the case with the famous story of the dingo and the baby. It’s likely that in Amanda’s interview with Diane Sawyer she failed to win many of us over – she was again, for the most part, cool and collected.