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Understanding What are Microexpressions and How to Detect Them

How to Detect Microexpressions
What if we didn't have words to express ourselves? How would we communicate? It is but obvious, we would communicate through our expressions. Let's find out how to read these expressions.
SocialMettle Staff
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2018
Imagine how people would look without a slight smile lighting up their face or the frown that lets you know they are disappointed. What if we weren't able to let our eyes twinkle in recognition of the one we loved, or laugh out loud to our heart's content at the petty surprises of life? The picture that comes in front of my eyes just describing this is a cardboard face devoid of any sort of emotions, drained out of life forever. Would you like it this way? Nah! At least I wouldn't want to have a blank expression on my face 24/7.
I, personally enjoy looking at the different expressions around me; the smiles, the tears, expressions of satisfaction, of excitement, relief and sometimes of guilt. Just observing people in their most human form is enough to jolt me to a state of absolute awakening, especially when my day itself is gloomy.
In our day-to-day life, we try to camouflage our emotions with words. However, there's a truth in the eyes only a few can see, the words that they speak are silent glimpses to the true emotions we hide. These emotions are nothing but reactions to situations and no matter how hard you try to hide, you will never succeed in hiding these microexpressions.
What are Microexpressions
Expressions that last for less than 1/25th of a second are termed as microexpressions. They are described as brief involuntary emotions experienced by an individual when placed in a 'do-or-die' situation. In other words, microexpressions are observed for a minuscule moment on the face of an individual in extreme situations. Apart from the basic emotions like sadness, joy, dread, surprise, disgust, anger, disdain, microexpressions include emotions like delight, embarrassment, exhilaration, guilt, pride, contentment, shame and relief.
Anger Expression
Anger Expression
Disgusting Expression
Disgusting Expression
Woman full of pride
Woman Full of Pride
Frustrated Expression
Frustrated Expression
Excited woman
Excited Expression
Sad woman
Sad Expression
Happy Expression
Happy Expression
Surprised Expression
Surprised Expression
Types of Microexpressions
If only one spared a moment to think about the phrase, "Actions speak louder than words", they would see the truth behind it. Just like a flash of lightning lighting up the sky, a flash of emotion can determine the mood and emotion of the person. Besides, research has shown that about 90% of our communication revolves around non-verbal communication. Microexpressions are classified into three broad categories namely:
Simulated Expression
Facial expressions that are devoid of genuine emotions are termed as simulated expressions. By simulation, we understand that the emotions expressed are forced and not real/genuine. Microexpressions of a forced smile especially to pose for a picture, etc., come under this category.
Mimes with Simulated Expression
Neutralized Expression

The individual prefers to have a bland look on the face rather that portraying any sort of emotion on the face. The real emotions are counterbalanced or suppressed in this type of microexpression. A typical bored face sans expression would fit into this category.
Expressionless woman
Masked Expression
Just like a clown, who has his face plastered with a permanent smile, this type of microexpression is about absolute masking of emotions. This type of expression leaves no scope to portray the actual expressions.
Woman with fake smile
Detecting Microexpressions
Being able to distinguish the truth from the lie is a herculean task and should we say that it takes a lot of practice. As microexpressions last for a fraction of a second, constantly observing them can be a strenuous task. However, the task is not reserved for professionals alone; just about anyone who has a roving eye can catch and detect these microexpressions. The only thing you need to remember is that every time you have a conversation with anyone, keenly observe the person's face. Ensure you do not appear to be glaring at the person you are observing. You can understand the real feelings of the person with these simple steps.
A Smile Can do Wonders
A genuine smile is reflected in the eyes of the individual. In case, the smile does not fill up your subject's eyes, you should immediately understand that they are lying or hiding something from you. Notice the 'crow-feet' at the edge of the eyes; that's where the secret lies!
Focus on the Window to the Soul
Maintaining eye contact with your subject is very important and this you have been told many a time in the past, but you duly ignored it. The eyes are a sure bet on whether a person is lying or hiding something from you; well, the eyes are not simply called the windows to the soul. Notice the way the eyes move when the subject talks to you. When the person is lying/sad and is trying to hide this emotion from you, his/her eyeballs will constantly move from one corner to the other.
Ah! The Wrath of the Gods!
How do you understand if you have angered someone? Observe the lips of the person in front of you; if something angers them, it will show with narrowing of the lips into a thin line. Besides, there will be a flash of intense glare in the eye, which will tell you to tread cautiously.
Twitch twitch!
The slightest twitch should be your giveaway. To catch that microexpression, go with your instincts open; you will observe that twitch in the eye, in the lips and you know something's amiss.
The only way to catch those microexpressions is to keep your eyes wide open. Besides, knowing how to read microexpressions will help you know if someone is lying to you. By the way, do not stop practicing your skills of micro-observing people around you; after all, practice will make you an expert 'lie detector' at least. Here's where I sign off and get back to my favorite pastime of observing the people around me and leaving you to pursue it too.