Common Misconceptions about Microexpressions Part 1

Think you know everything about microexpressions? Take a look at our list of common microexpression misconceptions:

1)    Seeing a microexpression automatically means that a person is lying

Microexpressions occur when people are trying to conceal their emotions, most often in high stakes situations. When you see a microexpression, don’t automatically assume that the person who gave off the micro is lying. The first thing you need to do is establish a baseline: ask yourself what the person’s normal behavior is.

If you indeed notice a hot spot (where their verbal actions contradicts their nonverbal actions), you need to stop and ask more questions. Don’t automatically assume that what they are saying is a lie.

2)    Microexpressions include the following:

•    Rate that the person is blinking
•    The direction their eyes are moving
•    Restlessness
•    Heavy breathing

All of the above actions are great examples of nonverbal behavior which may be indicative that someone is lying, but are not microexpressions. While microexpressions are one type of nonverbal behavior that occurs on the face, they do not involve how frequently a person blinks or how heavy their breathing is.

Microexpressions commonly represent the seven basic emotions: happiness, fear, sadness, anger, contempt, disgust and surprise. They occur as fast as 1/25 of a second and are classified by the speed at which the expression occurs on a person’s face.

3)    Only “Truth Wizards” can see microexpressions

These “truth wizards” that were discovered by Maureen O’Sullivan during her Wizards Project were a select group of people that were particularly good at detecting deception. You don’t have to be a wizard to see microexpressions. Anyone can learn to see microexpressions, especially if they get the proper training.

4)    Microexpressions were discovered recently

Despite the show Lie to Me that aired on FOX, microexpressions were first discovered by Haggard and Isaacs over 40 years ago. They published a report on these expressions, which they called “micromomentary” expressions in 1966.  The article they wrote was entitled Micro-momentary facial expressions as indicators of ego mechanisms in psychotherapy. Many subsequent studies have been conducted based on the research by Haggard and Isaacs, but the discovery of microexpressions should be attributed to them.

For more on the history behind microexpressions, take a look at this article

For more information regarding the research behind microexpressions, take a look at this article

For more information regarding emotion recognition training, please visit our product page

13 responses to “Common Misconceptions about Microexpressions Part 1”

  1. […] Common Misconceptions about Microexpressions | Humintell http://www.humintell.com/2009/08/common-misconceptions-about-microexpressions – view page – cached Think you know everything about microexpressions? Take a look at our list of common microexpression misconceptions: 1)    Seeing a microexpression — From the page […]

  2. Abraham says:

    Thanks to the sett and mett porgrams i can see microexpressions, but i need wo focus really hard on the persons face, i guess with the experience it will become a lot easier

  3. e009 says:

    I totally agree with number 1. Though the tools give the impression that you can learn to spot microexpressions. They are extremely hard to do so in real life. I’ve gotten into situations where i caught the microexpression, identified it correctly, but my reasoning was way off. I can ace the mix exams, and have moved on to interviews. However, it’s self defeating when you watch interviews where a person is convicted of something because now, you’re assuming they’re lying and that affects your judgement.

  4. Alexis says:

    My family works with BDO’s, (behavioral detection officers) and trying to deceive people through years of training to learn when people are lying, are misconceptions to wha they truly do. BDO’s detect the deceiving part of the person. when the try to do this the training they have, helps how to detect it

  5. nadjib says:

    i don’t see microexpression it see me when ever i turn my face

  6. White says:

    Of course you people won’t be able to make sense out of microexpressions!! (Even if you could find one! lol )
    They study for years, and you think you can just do what they do after taking couple of test with SETT and METT software?! how dumb are you?!

  7. Actually White, there have been scientific studies that show using standardized tools like MiX does improve your ability to see microexpressions. Also, degrading comments such as yours are not welcome on this blog.

  8. Daniel Schreuder says:

    Misconceptions, are conceptions non-the-less and one should be confident about one’s ability to distinguish the difference.
    In our unconscious mind we see all these micro-expressions, and store them.
    Reading and correctly analyzing them is the art.
    If the baseline is not correct, above is not possible!!

  9. Stéphane With says:

    I wonder if there are any studies on how prevalent micro-expressions are?
    They exist of course but how pervasive are they in real life? In other words if micro-expressions are to be reliable sources of information about concealed emotions one should know if they are frequent enough to be reliable external signs of covert emotional processes. Are basic emotions always or at least more often than not accompanied by micro-expressions that people can’t control? (please point me to relevant research if available). Are there individual differences in the tendency to produce those micro-expressions? (Gender, personality, other?). Finally has the increase on the METT and SETT scores been associated with relevant variables external to the test itself? Better deception detection ability?, better mind-reading of other’s emotions? These are some of the questions I ask myself about micro-expressions. I’d be glad if anyone could provide some answers. Thanks for your insights…

  10. Shay says:

    Thank you for this very interesting info, I have been quitely interested in Microexpressions for the last couple of years. To explain where my interest has come from, without going into to much detail, i seem to have a sence of detecting natural unease or untruth in people i met, not necessarily from the first meeting but more so after a period of time, ( hrs, days or weeks), i can feel something is not right, the obvious is not being able to look at me directly (avoiding eye contact), uncomfortable body language and so on, even to the point of not being able to stay in the same room with me, but eventually the truth shows its self. In the mean time people are saying to me what a good/nice person they are, but something keeps nagging at me, something is wrong. I suppose my point is, if i did one of your courses, is it going to change my natural ability in the sence of when i first met people, i dont judge them, i allow naturally things to enlighten me, but learning microexpressions is it going to make me start to judge people straight away instead of benefit of the doubt and leaving it to naturally unfold.

  11. Micaela says:

    Hi! I’m very interesting in microespressions and I’m now studying FACS. I would like to know if this Matzumoto online course gives a certificate and if this certificate is recognized by some Universities. Thank you.

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