Read with Caution…

A recent article found on the Global Times out of China caught our eye since it mentioned microexpressions.

While the initial premise of the article doesn’t focus around microexpressions (but rather, gum chewing), a few points made in the article caught our eye, since this is exactly the type of area we specialize in.

Right here, the article catches our attention because there ARE NO microexpresions of “confused” and “anxious” as portrayed by the images above. In fact, microexpressions represent the 7 basic emotions of anger, disgust, contempt, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise. Emotions such as confusion, anxious, shame, pride, guilt, etc. all belong in a group called self-conscious emotions and there is little conclusive scientific evidence of how these emotions are portrayed on the face.

Last paragraph of this section also attracts our attention. As mentioned many times, microexpression DO NOT consist of pressing of the lips together, excessive blinking, scratching of the head, etc, etc. It is also extremely important to note that these behaviors are not ALWAYS indicative of someone being under stress or being deceitful. It is always important to establish a baseline of the individual being evaluated and notice if these behaviors deviate from this baseline. What if they simply have chapped lips or dry eyes?

The first paragraph of this section is also important to note, when the speaker states that “Tim Roth and Kelli Williams in the popular American show Lie to Me are able to judge if a person is lying or not only by observing his micro-expressions”. Please always remember that seeing a microexpression is NOT ALWAYS a sign of lying. Rather, if it contradicts their verbal statement, it is a hot spot- an area where you as the observer or interviewer need to dig a little deeper.

To clarify your understanding of microexpressions, please see our Common Misconceptions About Microexpressions blog posts!

Common Misconceptions About Microexpressions Part 1

Common Misconceptions About Microexpressions Part 2

3 responses to “Read with Caution…”

  1. BenS says:

    With regards to what is/isn’t a microexpression:
    are you saying that AUs like the Lip Pressor etc. cannot be fast enough to occur within the microexpression timeframe?
    Or are you saying that “microexpression” is exclusively defined as a complete prototypical emotional expression (and Lip Pressor is not officially part of an emotion)?

  2. Hi Ben, Please see below for Dr. Matsumoto’s response:

    What we are saying is that the authors of that piece have their operational definition of microexpressions entirely wrong. They refer to microexpressions as specific emotional expressions (e.g., confused, anxious, etc).

    Microexpressions refer to the speed of any emotional expression. Thus their use of the term is incorrect.

    Now AUs like lip pressor can and indeed do innervate quickly in micros. A micro can be a full-face prototype or a partial expression; again the “micro” designation refers to speed, nothing else.

  3. BenS says:

    Thank you for clarifying that.

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