Facial expressions tell all (if you can read them)
If the eyes are the window to your soul, the face is the frame. Facial expressions may say more about you than you realize. Even neutral expressions do.
Happiness is a warm slice of toast
There was a time when people said facial expressions were a universal language. We now know that the visual and audio cues we express can have different meanings in different countries and cultures. But researchers think that there are universal emotions that we communicate with facial expressions. Some say there are seven basic emotions: joy, surprise, sadness, contempt, disgust, fear and anger.
Smile! It takes less muscle than a frown
There are 43 face muscles, split into two groups: those we use for mastication, or chewing, and those we use to express ourselves. It's said that it's easier to smile because it takes less muscle than to frown. That may in fact be false. Some studies suggest that smiles and frowns take an even number of muscles. But who cares? A good smile is infectious and can express happiness faster than words.
What? I was born with this face!
Psychologists study the hidden meanings in facial expressions. Because, sometimes, we don't realize we're "transmitting." We might think we're emotionally neutral, but others judge our faces unconsciously. Let's say the ends of your mouth dip naturally. Some will think you're negative, untrustworthy or angry. Faces with upturned mouths are generally perceived as more positive. It's hardly fair.
'Backward masking' truth in your eyes
Facial expressions are vital for human communication. And, like him or loathe him, former US President Donald Trump is a master of the art — except his face may not always tell us what lies beneath. People use mouth movements, such as pouts of contempt, to conceal microexpressions in the eyes. The mouth masks the eyes backwards, as it were — after the eyes have shown what you're truly feeling.
Was former British Prime Minister Theresa May, seen here with Queen Elizabeth II, disgusted by a bad smell emitting from the monarch? Surely not. English naturalist Charles Darwin suggested that a wrinkling of the nose may have evolved as a way that people protected themselves against noxious gases. But, as we've seen, we often misinterpret facial expressions, especially when caught on camera.
Eyebrows: Up or down?
Tears of sadness are as universal as tears of joy. But can you always tell them apart? You've got to look at the whole picture. Is there a smile hiding under that hand? Clearly not in this case. Check the eyebrows. When they are up or arched, it can mean surprise. When they are down or drawn close together, they show sadness, anger or fear. Eyebrows can be as telling as the eyes themselves.
A complex emotion that's hard to read
This is Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo. Is he raging or concentrating fiercely? His intense eyes could mean either. See the eyebrows, knit together, and the long-drawn mouth? He's angry. But anger is a complex "compound emotion," with different layers. As with all facial expressions, it'd be easier to read Ronaldo if you could see and hear the whole person in context. It takes practice.