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Perception and TOK: Microfeatures

Perception and TOK: Microfeatures

Author: Alexander Best
  1. Understand what microfeatures are
  2. Identify microfeatures
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Introduction to Microfeatures


It is Written All Over Your Face: Understanding Micro Expressions

A micro expression is a very brief, involuntary facial expression shown on the face of humans when one is trying to conceal or hide an emotion, and they usually occur in high stakes situations, where people have something to lose or gain (Basically when you try to lie or cheat).

Unlike regular facial expressions, few can fake a micro expression. They consist of and completely resemble the seven universal emotions: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, surprise, and contempt. Micro expressions can occur as fast as 1/25 of a second.

Below are some pictures of the seven universal emotions show to us by the brilliant Tim Roth - Dr Lightman from the fantastic FOX TV show 'Lie To Me'.

Click below to be taken to Paul Ekman's training page -

Micro Expression Training

Disgust - Mirco Expression

Disgust - Mirco Expression

Anger - Micro Expression

Anger - Mirco Expression

Fear - Micro Expression

Fear - Micro Expression

Sadness - Micro Expression

Sadness - Micro Expression

Happiness - Micro Expression

Happiness - Micro Expression

Suprise - Micro Expression

Suprise - Micro Expression

Contempt - Micro Expression

Contempt - Mirco Expression

About Micro Expressions

Thirty years ago, Paul Ekman did cross-cultural research and identified seven basic human emotions. He identified the seven basic emotions through facial expressions. No matter where in the world, what culture, class, race, gender, or lighting, these seven facial expressions were identified across the board. By learning to identify these seven basic human emotions, you will get insight into just what people are experiencing, and if they are lying to you!

Emotions are displayed based on how the muscles in your face move. While researching the face, Ekman created a coding system to identify all of the possible movements that each of you facial muscles can make called the Facial Action Coding System. You don't have to become an expert in the FACS to read faces though. Ekman offers a nice set of tools to help you better identify people's facial expressions in real-time.

On Dr Ekman's website (Please see the link at the top of this lens) you can view a few video interviews that he has done over the years analyzing and explaining his reading of faces. These videos are great both as training tools to understand the range and depth of information that faces present. They also give you a great insight into how you can use facial recognition to more accurately read a person's emotional state, both the subtle emotions people experience and the emotions they don't want you to see.

Training Yourself To Notice Facial Expressions -

Mr. Ekman has created two training modules that can help you identify these seven basic facial expressions with more precision and ease. It is relatively easy to identify these facial expression when we are shown apicture, but people don't usually wear their expressions for minutes at a time! On his website, you can use his training videos to identify what he call micro-expressions and subtle-expressions.

Subtle expressions-

Subtle expressions happen when someone experiences an emotion very briefly or when the emotion is not as intense. The subtle expression training tool shows you how to recognize the subtle movements in a person's facial muscles that correspond with various emotions.

Micro expressions-

Micro expressions occur when a person is trying to suppress or repress an emotion. Have you ever tried to not smile, or not look angry? In the show Lie To Me, the main character deals with people who are constantly trying to hide their emotions. This training enables you to read a person's emotional state, even when they don't want you to!

Using these two training programs will not only help you read 'pure emotions', but you will also learn to notice when someone displays conflicting emotions, as in where they're not sure what to think or feel about something. Mixed emotions are displayed by people when they have two contrasting emotions. Because people can experience more than one emotion at a time, our faces sometimes give off mixed signals. For a brief instant, someone may smile with their mouth at a joke and at the same time display anger with their brow.


Lie To Me's Take on the Hand-held Lie Detector

Complete a Microfeatures test to see how you do!

Complete the linked test and see how you do on discovering microfeatures!