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Friday, December 23, 2016

Hiding true emotions: micro-expressions in eyes retrospectively concealed by mouth movements

Miho Iwasaki & Yasuki Noguchi
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22049 (2016)


When we encounter someone we dislike, we may momentarily display a reflexive disgust expression, only to follow-up with a forced smile and greeting. Our daily lives are replete with a mixture of true and fake expressions. Nevertheless, are these fake expressions really effective at hiding our true emotions? Here we show that brief emotional changes in the eyes (micro-expressions, thought to reflect true emotions) can be successfully concealed by follow-up mouth movements (e.g. a smile). In the same manner as backward masking, mouth movements of a face inhibited conscious detection of all types of micro-expressions in that face, even when viewers paid full attention to the eye region. This masking works only in a backward direction, however, because no disrupting effect was observed when the mouth change preceded the eye change. These results provide scientific evidence for everyday behaviours like smiling to dissemble, and further clarify a major reason for the difficulty we face in discriminating genuine from fake emotional expressions.

The article is here.

Editor's note: This research may apply to transference and countertransference reactions in psychotherapy.