Everyday Liars: Micro-Expression & Facial Recognition

As humans we are liars, whether or not we want to be. Not telling the truth can potentially get us out of trouble or awkward situations, it can give someone a shred of hope or it can cause serious irreparable damage.

Lying and telling the truth can be hard, believing can be even harder. There are certain methods we can use to determine if a person is being truthful or not – one of the easiest ways to know is through their facial expressions.

As we get older it becomes easier to hide our true emotions and feelings if we feel the need to, by mastering how to manipulate our faces in to looking truthful, go ahead give it a try. If you catch a child in the act of doing something wrong you can tell if they’re being honest or not within moments of looking at them; their cheeky smirks, their shifty eyes, their pouting and trembling lips, and the fumbling of their words. There are many tell-tale signs that give a person away.

Over time we learn by trial and error what facial expressions we should use and not use in certain scenarios and eventually figure out how to “keep a straight face” when we don’t necessarily want to.

We don’t live in a fairy tale world such as the story of Pinocchio. When he lies his nose grows which is a dead giveaway. As humans our facial expressions are far more subtle, so subtle that we can rectify an unwanted expression within less than a second. Our initial expression which we quickly hide is called a “micro expression” which shows our true feelings before we mask it with an opposite expression.

With advances in psychology and technology we are lied to continuously. Lying is portrayed through visual media outlets such as television and web news to manipulate for mass consumption of hidden agendas. The news anchor, politician, religious leader, salesperson can now look millions of people in the eyes and lie directly to them, all they need to do is keep a straight face.

As Paula Gordon says in her article Who Can We Believe? Dr. Ekman’s Not-so-Magic Cure, lying is accepted and often condoned.

“All too frequently we are in a con game, particularly in the commercial sphere. Advertising, marketing, sales, finance, politics and belief systems do not traffic in veracity. Indeed, even if the game is not a con game, if I don’t know the rules, I am at risk. If someone can change the rules on a whim or on the back of a purchased politician, I am at risk. If I am a lousy player, I am at risk. If I trust the untrustworthy, I am at risk.”

With an understanding of emotional intelligence one can recognize the facial expressions of manipulation but also empathize with more sincere expression. With influences both positive and negative, our views are often shaped from what we read, what we see, and what we hear. It can be very hard to tune out all the lies and deceit. The best we can do is filter through it using our education, experience and the wisdom we gain over time. Everyone is capable of lying and telling the truth, it is up to each individual person to choose whether they want to believe or not.


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