A microexpression is a brief, involuntary facial expression that appears on a person’s face according to the emotions being experienced. Unlike regular, prolonged facial expressions, it is difficult to fake a micro expression. The face and its facial expressions, also known as microexpressions, are the window to the soul.
Being able to read and understand microexpressions can instantly tell you how the other person is feeling. This can become a powerful personal tool for you to gain the psychological edge in complex inter-personal interaction at the workplace and beyond.
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Why You Should Know How to Read Micro Expressions
Learning to read microexpressions is incredibly helpful for understanding the people in our lives. Emotions not only cause facial expressions, but facial expressions also cause emotions. If you want to practice reading people’s faces, it is important to know the following basic expressions.
We would recommend trying the following faces in the mirror so you can see what they look like on yourself. You also will find that if you make the facial expression, you also begin feeling the emotion yourself!
There are seven universal microexpressions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise and contempt.
Disgust is quite easy to identify because when somebody has a Micro Expression of disgust on their face, you will see the wrinkles around the nose. This comes along with downcast eyebrows and narrowed eyes raised the upper lid, cheek and lower lip. This is the expression you make when you smell something bad.
- The upper eyelid is raised
- The lower lip is raised
- Nose is wrinkled
- Cheeks are raised
- Lines show below the lower eyelid
A possible sign of anger is the tightening of the lower and upper eyelids. The brows are usually lowered, drawn together and both of the eyelids are tightened. During the feeling of anger, some people can move their jaw forward (usually this happens just before a fight). All three facial areas must be engaged to not have any ambiguity
- The eyebrows are lowered and drawn together
- Vertical lines appear between the eyebrows
- The lower lid is tensed
- Eyes are in hard stare or bulging
- Lips can be pressed firmly together, with corners down, or in a square shape as if shouting
- Nostrils may be dilated
- The lower jaw juts out
Fear can be seen in the eyes when the upper eyelids are raised high.
- Eyebrows are raised and drawn together, usually in a flat line
- Wrinkles in the forehead are in the center between the eyebrows, not across
- The upper eyelid is raised, but the lower lid is tense and drawn up
- Eyes have the upper white showing, but not the lower white
- Mouth is open and lips are slightly tensed or stretched and drawn back
Sadness is evident on someone’s face when the inner corners of the eyebrows are raised. Another sign of Sadness is the pulling down of both of the lip corners. This is the hardest microexpression to fake. Not many people can fake it without feeling a slight amount of sadness.
- Inner corners of the eyebrows are drawn in and then up
- The skin below the eyebrows is triangulated, with the inner corner up
- Corner of the lips are drawn down
- Jaw comes up
- Lower lip pouts out
You can see the happiness on somebody’s face when both sides of their lips go up in a symmetrical way. Both lip corners curl up at the same time, and both to the same height. Fake happiness could be detected by the side eye muscles — they are not engaged for fake ones.
- Corners of the lips are drawn back and up
- The mouth may or may not be parted, teeth exposed
- A wrinkle runs from outer nose to outer lip
- Cheeks are raised
- Lower eyelid may show wrinkles or be tense
- Crow’s feet near the outside of the eyes
Identifying the microexpression is only a piece of the puzzle. The surprise is shown by the raising of the upper eyelids. The surprise is a short emotion. If the eyelids are raised longer, then it’s probably Fear.
- The eyebrows are raised and curved
- Jaw drops open. Relaxed lips and mouth.
- The skin below the brow is stretched
- Horizontal wrinkles across the forehead
- Eyelids are opened, white of the eye showing above and below
- Jaw drops open and teeth are parted but there is no tension or stretching of the mouth
An emotion of superiority could be detected by rising of one side of the mouth into a sneer or smirk.
- One side of the mouth is raised
Unlike regular facial expressions, no one can fake micro expressions. Because when you try to hide your emotions, they just leak out at a fifth of the second.