Have you ever heard of intuition, most of as investigators are naturally intuitive in certain areas? The kind of intuition I am speaking about is related to communicating with people. After taking just one look at someone, why do we sometimes immediately know we don't like him or her? We usually chalk this up to intuition, instinct or a "gut feeling," but researchers have found that there's something more going on that just barely meets the eye -- micro-expressions.
Micro-expressions are signs that are given to us by the face, and they can tell us a very powerful story. Often when we read faces, there is a ton of data to go through. We are comparing their faces to previously known expressions, signs of deception, emotions, and then we have to take into effect the size, tone, length of the face. Even more so then we have to take into consideration eyeglasses, makeup, tattoos or piercings, we make personal judgments based on what the person has added by choice. Providing more immediate information are the changes in a person's face, such as smiles, frowns or scowls. These changes provide us with the most obvious information about someone's mood or immediate intentions.
Expressions represent the person's intended message, the one he or she is trying to convey. A person trying to gain your trust will smile. Someone trying to scare you will scowl When we communicate with other people, we try to gather as much verbal and nonverbal data as possible. We also try to regulate the outward expressive information we display to others in order to:
- Exploit our understanding of the people we interact with
- Advance our outlook on the situation
- Guard ourselves against harm, deception, shame or loss of social standing
- Direct, assure or influence the perceptions of another
- Happiness. The expression of happiness involves raising the lip corners, raising and wrinkling cheeks, and narrowing eyelids, producing "crow's feet" (wrinkles in the corners of the eyes).
- Sadness. This expression features narrowed eyes, eyebrows brought together, a down-turned mouth, and a pulling up or bunching of the chin.
- Fear. In fear, the mouth and eyes are open; eyebrows are raised, and nostrils are sometimes flared.
- Anger. Anger involves lowered eyebrows, a wrinkled forehead, tensed eyelids and tensed lips.
- Disgust. A look of disgust includes nose scrunching, raising the upper lip, downcast eyebrows, and narrowed eyes.
- Surprise. Surprise appears with a dropped jaw, relaxed lips and mouth, widened eyes and slightly raised eyelids and eyebrows.
- Contempt. Contempt is notable for its raising of one side of the mouth into a sneer or smirk.
Ekman went even further and, with fellow researcher W.V. Friesen, mapped out (through observation and biofeedback) which facial muscles were responsible for which expressions. He codified them into a system called the Facial Action Coding System FACS. Stay tuned for next week’s follow up to this where we explore the FACS and how you can use it.