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 a feeling.

I. Micro Expressions: The Face Suite

Improve your emotional intelligence

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 you will likely become more aware of your own feelings.

Recognize and better manage your own emotions

Learning to recognize facial expressions of emotion in others helps you recognize your own emotions. In addition, Dr. Ekman’s research reveals that simply mimicking an emotion by manipulating your own facial expressions will initiate the physiological experience of that emotion – you’ll feel it arise within yourself. When you train yourself to link facial expressions with internal experience, you improve your awareness of your internal emotions, including emotional triggers. This awareness helps you manage the expression of your emotions.

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. See Dr. Ekman’s book Telling Lies for a full analysis of these and other clues of concealment and deceit.

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.

Dr. Ekman created the Face Suite to help you spot micro expressions.

II. Responding to Micro Expressions: PEG Interactive

Develop your capacity for empathy

Emotions play a key role in all 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 – micro expressions — 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.”

Improve your relationships

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

Dr. Ekman created PEG Interactive to help you best respond to emotional expressions in challenging scenarios at home, at work, or with the police.


III. Develop a comprehensive emotional skill set: The Ekman Library

Dr. Ekman created the Ekman Library, which includes the Face Suite and PEG Interactive to offer you the most training in emotional awareness and enhanced communication.