Season 3 Episode 7: Veronica
Shame vs Guilt
Lightman tells Gus Sloan “you look sad, and what I really mean is ashamed.” Sadness, shame and guilt are often confused – because they share the same facial expression – but they are very different emotions. In shame and guilt there may be more looking away or covering of part of the face, than would occur with straight sadness, but the basic facial expression is the same – inner corners of the eyebrows are raised so that the eyebrows slant downwards from the center of the forehead, cheeks are slightly raised, lip corners are slightly pulled down, and sometimes the lower lip is pushed up slightly.
Sadness (the name of a family of emotions that includes disappointment, discouragement, and hopelessness) is felt when there is an important loss. Typically it is the loss of someone to whom we are very attached; when the loss is due to death we call it grief. Guilt is felt about an action that we know was wrong. Shame is felt not about an action but about who and what we are; if anyone really knew who and what we are, they would be repulsed. Guilt motivates a confession of wrong doing, shame inhibits it.
Lightman tells Charlie that his expression and gesture reveal that he thinks Veronica killed Rose and then the program cuts away to clips of former President Nixon, former English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the late Senator Ted Kennedy emphasizing something they are saying with a hand movement. That’s all it is – a speech emphasis illustrator – not proof of who killed someone. Incidentally, Charlie didn’t even make that hand movement.
Foster tells the doctor that emphatic denial with stress on every word is a sign of “condescending deception”. She is right about the condescension, (although it can also be an old fashioned bit of rhetorical speech-making). But it is not a sign of deception.