Microexpressions and spotting a liar.

The study of human behavior

Pretty much everybody has the ability on some level or another to read facial expressions. this can be from cheerful to sad to angry amongst other emotions, from seeing an expressions on somebody's face you can identify that emotion due to past experiences. Now we all know people can fake their facial expressions and most of us have even done it ourselves whether its bumping into somebody you don't really like and greeting them with a fake smile, acting calm when receiving bad news or acting really pleased when you receive that bright green woolly jumper on your birthday for the fifth time. Though we may act nice and relaxed on the outside on the inside it is a different story we may feel disappointed, sadness anger. Sometimes the opposite is true like when you hear good news and try to contain your excitement. Microexpressions are the result of hiding your true emotions; they aren't easily controllable and often leak out without you knowing. When these microexpressions do occur they can last for as short as one-twenty-fifth of a second.

The expressions we display for longer periods of time are called macroexpressions and are generally easier to spot and are also evoked by our emotions but unlike microexpressions they can be faked. One of the most well known researchers on the psychology of micrexpressions and lying is Dr Paul Ekman, as a researcher of the subject for about 40 years he discovered that emotions are universal and also biological, and by 1972 he identified a list of seven main microexpressions, these expressions are..

An emotion which is usually quite easy to spot than other expressions anger is very typical in its nature, the lips narrow and tense up slightly, the eyebrows slant and furrow together and eye contact has more focus and intensity.

An emotional reaction against something you  really do not like, though it doesn't have to be physical like the sight or smell of a certain food, the sight of bodily fluids or something unclean disgust can be towards something you may hear of such as a belief you disagree with or a story that is gory or unpleasant. disgust is often recognised with the upper lip raised exposing teeth and wrinkling of the nose, the cheeks may be raised and the eyes squint also.

Closely linked with disgust contempt is only in reaction to people and their actions and unlike disgust it isn't in reaction to physical objects, smells and bodily fluids. Contempt is recognised by the wrinkling of the nose and raising of the upper lip but this time on one side of the lip instead of raising the front lip when feeling disgust.

Fear can sometimes be misidentified as surprise; this is because both emotions use similar facial muscles. When fear presents itself the eyes are most noticeable as they are more wide open and the mouth opens slightly, the lips pull back towards the ears and the eyebrows are raised considerably higher and pulled together.

Even though it is linked to the emotion of fear surprise does have some differences; the eyebrows are raised, eyes are widened from the outer corners and the jaw is opened just a little being thrust forward. You may also notice that a person being surprised will gasp for air ever so slightly. Depending on the context surprise can be towards something either negative or positive, keep in mind if a follow up reaction is toward something positive a smile may follow the initial response or if it is something negative the following reaction maybe to step or lean back even frown towards the object of negativity.

An interest emotion as it can empathised with quite easily, for instance if you see somebody who is feeling sad or upset after enough time you will find yourself feeling that very same emotion. When people experience sadness the outer corner of the eyes droop down while the eyes themselves can be fixated on something or in a daze as the eyelids sag, the mouth similarly droop down from the outer corners also. Interestingly enough sadness can be displayed in one part of the face so everything described earlier can be individually isolated and still be recognised as sadness.

Just like sadness happiness is an emotion which normally can be empathised and even cause you to smile yourself. Using pretty much the whole face the microexpression of happiness uses the mouth and eyes which are given a lift from each outer corner, though people do fake this expression it can be spotted as people who fake happiness rarely incorporate the eyes which is a key part of displaying this emotion.

The study of human behavior When studying somebody's non-verbals such as microexpressions it is always useful to keep in mind the context of the situation, this will help to correctly assess the subjects non-verbals with greater accuracy minimizing any misreadings that may occur. A notable authority on the subject is Dr Paul Ekman who realised the existence of microexpressions when he was lecturing a group of young psychiatrists who wanted to know how to tell if a previously suicidal psychiatric patient was lying when asked if they were feeling better in preparation for their possible release. As we know psychiatric patients normally make claims of a positive recovery even though they may not have not recovered at all, and if they managed to gain permission to leave the hospital they may make an attempt to take their own lives. Because some patients can be particularly convincing the young psychiatrists wanted to know; is there any way to be sure they are telling the truth? So Ekman decided to look into it using a collection of pre-recorded 12 minute interviews of some of the patients at the hospital. During a conversation with one of the patients after looking at the interviews the patient told him that she lied to him. so Ekman looked back at the film slowing it right down until he found across two frames an expression of extreme distress, and after that he wound up finding more examples of deceit within the interview. In the words of Dr Ekman... and that was the discovery of microexpressions. 

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