Megan’s mother says she is very angry, to which Lightman says “and scared – don’t forget that part.” Megan replies to Lightman: “You just attacked my mother; how is she supposed to feel?” They both are right; anger and fear often go together. Emotions rarely occur in isolation. Instead one emotion precedes or provokes another emotion.
We are afraid of harm; we often get angry to defend against the threat of harm. Some threats of harm don’t also mobilize anger, just fear; for example, waiting to hear the results of a biopsy is typically saturated with the fear that it may reveal a malignancy, but usually there is no anger felt during that fear experience.
Fear often precedes anger; sometimes by only a fraction of a second, sometimes the fear may last much longer before anger is mobilized. When the fear is very brief, it may not be registered in awareness. Like Megan’s mother, the person then is only aware of feeling angry, not the momentary fear that preceded it that Lightman spotted in a micro facial expression.
This program centers on false allegations of abuse by teenage girls. Unlike the real world, the man falsely accused is quickly vindicated, he doesn’t go to jail, and his life is not destroyed. There was a rash of such false allegations of abuse a decade or two ago. I was involved in defending the accused in one or two cases. The allegations are more likely to be false when it is a group of accusers not a single person, and when they are pre-adolescent or adolescents. But not always; sometimes it is true. Not nearly as often as it was once thought, but sometimes. Each case has to be evaluated in its own terms, and when there is no physical evidence, as is often the case, and it is a question of who to believe the accuser or the accused, evaluations of demeanor as Lightman and Foster did in this show can be very helpful.