What is a micro expression?
Micro expressions are the rapid movements of facial muscles which are tied to underlying emotions.
Two eyes. A nose. A mouth. The face is a canvas which flashes hundreds of expressions every day. Understanding the movements of the face is an essential foundation for savvy living. Everyone can become skilled in reading the emotional posture of others by using Dr. Ekman’s micro expressions training tools. Cultivate your innate ability to interpret those around you.
Dr. Ekman discusses micro expressions in this video:
The Art of Micro Expressions
Whether we live in China, Cuba or Canada, all of us express the same seven universal emotions of: anger, fear, sadness, disgust, surprise, contempt and happiness. Dr. Ekman’s research has revealed that micro expressions are the fleeting emergence of these emotions on the face. Those who are adept at reading micro expressions gain a window into the psyche of the person flashing them.
When someone conceals emotions, leakage of that emotion can often be found on that person’s face. This leakage may be seen on one region of the face, or flashed in a millisecond across the whole face. Most people do not recognize these important clues, but with Dr. Ekman’s tools, you can learn to spot them.
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 to read micro expressions helps you recognize feelings in yourself and others.
Improving your ability to recognize others’ emotions increases your connections with other people. Research has also found that people who learned to spot micro expressions were better liked by co-workers.
When you recognize expressions of others, you become more sensitive to their real feelings. You also become more skilled at noticing when an emotion is just beginning, when an emotions is being concealed and when a person is unaware of what they are actually feeling.
Dr. Ekman’s research has shown that we often miss facial expressions when they contradict the words which are spoken. 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.
History of micro expressions
Haggard and Isaacs were the first to describe micro expressions (calling them “micro momentary expressions”) in their study of psychotherapeutic interviews. They explained the appearance of “micros” as the result of repression; the patient did not know how he or she was feeling. Haggard and Isaacs also implied that these fleeting expressions could not be recognized in real time, but Ekman and Friesen later showed that, with training, anyone could learn to see “micros” when they occurred. Ekman and Friesen also broadened the explanation of why micros occur.
In 1967, Dr. Ekman began to study deception, starting with clinical cases in which the patients falsely claimed not to be depressed in order to commit suicide when not under supervision. In the very first case, when films were examined in slow motion, Ekman and Friesen saw micro facial expressions which revealed strong negative feelings the patient was trying to hide.
Micro expressions happen when people have hidden their feelings from themselves (repression) or when they deliberately try to conceal their feelings from others. Importantly, both instances look the same; you cannot tell from the expression itself whether it is the product of suppression (deliberate concealment) or repression (unconscious concealment).