Micro-expressions: Reading the Truth in a Person’s Face

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Ever wonder why someone seems nice, but you feel uncomfortable around them? Consider the possibility that negative emotions are “leaking” out of them in what researcher Paul Ekman terms, micro-expressions. Learning to read them is fairly easy – and it can be like cracking a person’s code.


You may have heard about the pioneering research of Dr. Ekman, who has catalogued the facial expressions (all the way down to every one of 43 facial muscles) for each of the core emotions, which he’s identified as sad, happy, fear, anger, contempt, disgust and surprise. His work, popularized by the tv program, “Lie to Me,” and the great animated feature, “Inside Out,” deals with the decoding of “micro-expressions.” expressions that flash across a person’s face so quickly that we often don’t see them, especially if the person doesn’t want us to know what they are actually feeling. With practice, these expressions can be recognized, and he’s just released a new version of his online training program.

Here’s a chilling example of a pleasant face leaking anger in Kato Kaelin’s cross-examination by attorney Marcia Clark during the the O.J. Simpson trial.

Want to learn to better read micro-expressions?

Dr. Dan Quinn

Clinical Director - Licensed Clinical Psychologist (CA23350), Dan supervised the therapy and research of doctoral students at The Wright Institute, in Berkeley, where he has been a clinical supervisor. He has spent many years studying a multitude of therapy techniques, including relational psychoanalytic, cognitive behavioral, gestalt, solution-focused, and Internal Family Systems. He draws from all of them, depending upon the needs of the client at a particular point in the process. Dan was certified as a Positive Psychology coach after studying with its founder, Dr. Martin Seligman. He has 35 years of experience in the corporate arena, and was the CEO of a highly successful technology consulting firm.

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