Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions from Facial Expressions by Paul Ekman
This book was reviewed because of the parity to Sensory Acuity, and that this is a skill required of an NLP practitioner at all levels. We are also intrigued by the number of scientific studies that are attributing more credibility to the unconscious mind and the role it plays in everyday life. The author of this book, Paul Ekman is the resident Professor of Psychology at the University of California, specialising in facial language and is the person that the recent Fox TV series “Lie to me” is based on.
The first few chapters of the book are general discussion about facial expressions. It also answers the question of cultural variance when looking into communication, in that the unconscious facial expression of emotion is cross cultural – they are the same regardless of social norms, religion, language etc. This for us, was the most interesting aspect of the book, as we have worked with audiences from North America to China, and have noticed as much in the way of similarity of response as we have difference.
The book then goes in to discussion and example of individual expressions such as fear, disgust etc. For the purpose of demonstration, the each expression is quite exaggerated, with it appearing that the subjects have been told to ‘look angry’ etc. – this manifests itself by providing mechanical and unrealistic looks. However, this ‘acting’ provides insight into why we may get that feeling that, although someone says they agree, we feel they don’t. It highlights the difference between someone who is acting an emotion and one who is feeling an emotion.
The book explains all the movements of the facial muscles in conjunction with each of six basic emotions and explains variations. Chapter eleven explains ‘micro-expressions’. These last less than a second but are unconscious indicators of the true nature of what an individual is feeling. They operate a bit like a blush, in that, by the time you’ve felt it, its already happened.
If you are interested in any kind of analysis of emotional states expressed on the face, it is a great reference book and one that is always cited in other face perception studies.