Everything starts with a baseline. Over the next two weeks, there will be a post on each of the 7 Universal Emotions that were identified by Paul Ekman and since confirmed by a number of different researchers from both within the government as well as independent scientists. However if you don’t first establish a working baseline for a person, you will never be able to recognize changes in the facial expressions of those around you.
To keep this simple, we are going to divide the face into three separate and distinct areas that we will use to break down and establish a baseline for each person we are observing. We will look at the upper, middle and lower portions of the face.
The Upper Face area is going to include the forehead and the eye area. The portion of the upper face that is important to identify on people right away is the forehead and the degree of wrinkling that they have in their natural state. A younger person may have a very smooth forehead without any wrinkles, allowing for very quick recognition of a change, as many of the emotions (sadness, fear, surprise, disgust, anger) we will talk about will cause wrinkling across the forehead. On the other hand, older people may have developed natural wrinkle lines across their forehead, which means you will have to take note of the general depth of the line as well as the shape of the wrinkles. By noting the depth, you will be quickly able to see if a facial expression caused those wrinkles to deepen, or if they stayed the same.
The second part of the Upper Face that I am going to identify immediately when talking to someone is the arc of their eyebrows. For the expression of sadness/distress, only the inner portion of the eyebrows will raise up. For people who have a naturally rounded eyebrow, this will cause their brow to look straight. Since many people have a naturally straight eyebrow, you may miss the display of an emotion if you haven’t identified if they have a normally rounded eyebrow. The same concept applies with the emotion of anger, which will draw the brows together, so identifying how close the brows are to each other will also be beneficial. While you can also make note of eye lids, eye opening and degree of wrinkling around the eye, that is less important to a new student learning how to read facial expressions. Focus initially on the shape of the eyebrow and the wrinkles in the forehead.
The Middle Face portion is going to include the nose and the cheek area of the face. Both of the expressions of happiness and disgust will cause a change in a portion of the face called the naso-labial furrow. If you were to scrunch up your nose, the naso-labial furrow is the line that comes off of the side of your nose and runs down to the corners of your mouth. Just like we did on the forehead, it is good to note how deep of a line (naso-labial furrow) that a person has in a relaxed state so we can identify any changes. Some people have no line or a very faint line for their baseline naso-labial furrow while others have a very pronounced line. That is the portion of the Middle Face that will tell us the most.
The Lower Face portion is going to include the mouth and jaw areas. Just as we did with the shape of the eyebrows in the Upper Face, I want to identify the shape of the person’s mouth. Some people have a mouth that is flat or straight looking, while others may have a slightly downturned mouth, making them look sad all of the time. For the expressions of contempt, happiness, sadness, fear, disgust and surprise, there could be movement in the mouth area, which you may miss or not be confident in your assessment if you have not previously established what the person’s Lower Face baseline is.
As we go forward with the next posts on the facial expressions caused by the different emotions, we will break them down the same way as we did here: Upper, Middle, and Lower sections of the face and identify the changes that will occur in each of them.
With everything we do in Tactical Analysis, being able to quickly establish a baseline and being able to explicitly communicate what is the norm, either for the area, the group of people or in this case the face, will be the skill necessary to identifying changes, uncovering liars, and having a better understanding of human behavior. Observing changes in behavior or facial expressions will not provide you a meaningful explanation if you have not already established a baseline to compare it to.
Since everything starts with a baseline, start your observations of the face here.
Questions or issues? Let us know.
About The Author: Patrick Van Horne
More posts by Patrick Van Horne