There are 3 types of facial expressions of emotions known as Macroexpressions, Microexpressions and Subtle Expressions. These expressions show the seven basic emotions. Their descriptions can be found below.


Typically last from ½ second to 4 seconds: we see them in our daily interactions with people all of the time.

Microexpressions (Learn how to read them!)

Last less than ½ second: they occur when people are consciously or unconsciously trying to conceal or repress what they are feeling. Most people report that they don’t see microexpressions, however research has shown that people can be taught to spot these relatively easily: with training, in about an hour. People often have misconceptions about what microexpressions are and their characteristics. Learn more about microexpressions.

Subtle expressions

Are associated with the intensity of the emotion, not the time the emotion moves on and off the face. Subtle expressions occur when a person is just starting to feel an emotion, or when their emotional response to a situation, another person or the environment around them is of low intensity. Recently published research showed a high correlation between recognizing subtle expressions and being able to detect deceit. Learn how to read subtle expressions of emotion.

Find out what Humintell’s researchers are working on: click on an article below to find out more!

Cooperation and Competition in Intercultural Interactions

Emotions Expressed in Speeches by Leaders of Ideologically Motivated Groups Predict Aggression-2012

Cultural Similarities and Differences in Emblematic Gestures – 2013

Language of Political Aggression- 2012

Positive Effects in Detecting Lies from Training to Recognize Behavioral Anomalies- 2014

FBI Bulletin, Reading People: Behavioral Anomalies and Investigative Interviewing- 2014

Scientific Evidence for Training the Ability to Read Microexpressions of Emotion – 2011

Victory Stance: Universal Gesture for Triumph – 2012

Facial Expression Attributes, Type and Description

Attribute Type Description
Speed Macroexpressions These are emotional expressions that occur in normal discourse. When a person has an emotion and there’s no reason for the person to conceal his or her feelings, expressions go on and off the face between 0.5 and 4-5 seconds.
Speed Microexpressions These are signs of concealed emotions. They are very rapid, occurring less than 0.5 seconds, and often for 1/5th or even 1/15th of a second. Did you know You can learn how to read microexpressions.
Signal Clarity

Full Face

These are expressions that involve all of the facial muscles associated with the prototypical, full-face configurations, often involving the areas above the brows, the eyes and cheeks, and the lower face.
Partial Expressions These are expressions that involve components of full-face expressions, being shown ONLY in the brows, or eyes and cheeks, or lower face.
Angle Frontal You see the whole face from the front.
Angle ¾ You see the face from the front at a 45-degree angle.
Angle Profile You see the face from the side at a 90 degree angle
Intensity Strong These are moderate to high intensity expressions, corresponding to FACS intensity codes C through E
Intensity Subtle These are low intensity expressions that appear very slightly, corresponding to FACS intensity codes A and B
Distance Close These are images sizes that correspond to social interactions between intimate or familiar interactants
Distance Medium These are image sizes that correspond to social interactions among acquaintances and strangers
Distance Far These are image sizes that correspond to viewing faces in public or at a distance

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