Spotting micro expressions helps you perceive concealed emotions

Micro Expressions

What are micro expressions?

Micro expressions are very brief facial expressions, lasting only a fraction of a second. They occur when a person either deliberately or unconsciously conceals an emotion. Dr. Ekman’s research has revealed that seven emotions have universal signals: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, contempt, surprise and happiness. You can learn to spot them using the training tools developed by Dr. Ekman.

Micro expressions happen when people have hidden their feelings from themselves (repression) or when they have deliberately tried to conceal their feelings from others (supression). Both instances look the same; you cannot tell from the expression itself whether it is the product of supression (deliberate concealment) or repression (unconscious concealment).

Learning to detect micro expressions can help you:

Spot concealed emotions

When someone tries to conceal his or her emotions, “leakage” of that emotion will often be evident in that person’s face. The leakage may be limited to one region of the face (a mini or subtle expression), or may be a quick expression flashed across the whole face (a micro expression). Most people do not recognize these important clues, but, with training, you can learn to spot them as they occur.

One of the keys to improving emotional intelligence is developing skills which help you understand the human face. Unlike language or gesture the face is a universal system of signals which reflect the moment-to-moment fluctuations in a person’s emotional state. Learning how to read micro expressions will help you recognize feelings in others and, at the same time, you will likely become more aware of your own feelings.

Improve your
emotional intelligence

Develop your capacity for empathy

Emotions play a key role in all of our interactions. Common expressions on the face — macro expressions — may not accurately portray how someone is feeling. When you can recognize the fleeting and more evasive expressions that arise, you become more sensitive to the range of emotions others wish you to know they are feeling. You also become more skilled at noticing when an emotion is just beginning, when an emotion is being concealed, and when a person is unaware of what they are actually feeling. These are skills that can help you become more sensitive to the real feelings of others, and to let others know, when appropriate, that they are truly “seen.”

The face offers the best window we have on how other people are feeling. Improving your ability to recognize others’ emotions will increase the intimate understanding that allows you to connect with other people. Research has also found that people who learned to spot micro expressions were better liked by co-workers.

Improve your relationships

Understand others

Dr. Ekman’s research has shown that we often miss facial expressions when they contradict words being spoken. Yet facial micro expressions are a universal system — everybody has them, and they warrant our attention. Even people from vastly different cultures, people who don’t speak your language, still have the same emotions and will show the same expressions. When you learn to recognize micro expressions, spotting the discrepancies between what you hear and what you see applies across the board – from friends and family to total strangers.



Micro Expressions Training Tools

Created by Dr. Paul Ekman

Dr. Ekman has personally created each of the training tools on this site. You can use all of them, or some, for an entire year:



Ekman Library



Face Suite



Face Combo



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