You and your facial expressions

You probably think you're in control of your facial expressions, but the fact is you have very little, if any, idea what your face is saying throughout the day

The human face has many more muscles than any other animal, and they combine to create a complex range of emotional messages The urge to create these messages is so strong we even perform them when we're alone and there's no one watching

I What does your smile look like when you're required to perform a social smile—that is, one that is pleasing or polite, rather than one that is natural and unforced?

I Is your mouth crooked? Does your smile reach your eyes? Do you show teeth or even part your lips?

I What's your normal level of eye contact? How do you behave when you feel under pressure or intimidated?

I Where do your eyes tend to roam when you're thinking? Do you stare straight ahead or upward?

I Do you ever frown without realizing it?

I What does your "screensaver" face look like? This is the expression you wear when you're not putting your "best face forward " Do you look glum or angry?

Your face has three key modes:

1. Performance. This is your normal "going out" face used for meeting, greeting, and general chit-chat scenarios

2. Masking. This is the face you apply when trying to suppress negative expressions and replace them with something more polite or appropriate—for example, masking boredom by feigning interest, and so on

3 Screensaver This is more than just a blank canvas on which the other expressions are painted; your screensaver is the nearest there is to a natural facial expression . You'd likely start in screensaver mode as you prepare yourself for the day ahead It's the face you pull when you're not pulling a face, although it's a little more complex than that As we get older our muscles tend to hold memory traces These will tend to distort your screensaver face, meaning that without any bidding from you it's altogether possible that your screensaver has become a frown or a scowl It's very rare that a screensaver is anything remotely resembling a smile I see one woman regularly where I live and her face sports a smile when it's in "resting" mode I haven't done a street survey on the effect her expression has on passersby, but I have a strong suspicion that they're mildly troubled by it

Imagine a camera strapped to the side of your head, filming your facial expressions all day How much time would you spend performing, masking, or in screensaver mode?

Continue reading here: Your social performance face

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