Emotions show on our face. We are, in fact, hard wired to recognize how others are feeling by observing their faces. Researchers tell us that non verbal communication is between 60-70 % of the impact of a message, and that facial expressions are a major indicator of how a person is feeling.
There are 43 muscles in our faces. When we make facial expressions we are sending information about ourselves. The way we contract or expand our facial muscles sends clues about our emotional state, our physical state and our credibility.
A frown is a universal sign of sadness or annoyance, while a smile is usually seen as a sign of friendliness. Yet, our facial expressions are not always genuine. For example, there’s a difference between a false smile and a real smile. The difference lies in the tiny wrinkles that appear at the corners of the eye during a genuine smile. Dr.Paul Ekman, who has become an expert in the detection of lying, says that “everybody can voluntarily make their lips smile, but very few people can contract the muscle that surrounds the eyes.”
Dr. Ekman, devised a system for assessing the facial display of each of our emotions. The TV series, “Lie To Me, ” was based on his work. The show’s main characters, Dr. Lightman (Tim Roth) and Dr. Foster (Kelli Williams), are deception experts, called in on difficult cases to see if they can decipher when someone is lying. Their approach includes not only direct observation, but the slowed down film footage of the person under investigation. These stills show the inconsistencies between a person’s verbal expression and their involuntary body language, voice or gesture. These body expressions, displayed in microseconds, can’t be hidden, even voluntarily. On the show, they become the key to discovering whether someone is covering up the truth.
I found the series fascinating. It presents a very clear picture of how someone can be saying one thing, while the body is saying something else. You might be interested in seeing how the facial muscles change in each of our most basic emotions. Check it out here. Or see a clip of the Lie To Me Series.