Start free Blinkist trial Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now Synopsis Unmasking the Face is an illuminating read about the subtleties of facial expressions. Key idea 1 of 11 Reading human facial expressions is a survival skill — but it can be a challenge too! The ability to read facial expressions is an essential tool in our personal, professional and social lives. In fact, in some professions, reading facial expressions is an indispensable part of the job. So how do we read facial expressions?
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For example, middle-class, urban, white, adult males in the United States follow the display rule of not showing fear in public. Their female counterparts in the pre-matron or pre-maternal role follow the display rule of not showing anger in public. Originally, you may learn the display rule by being told what to do and not to do, or you may learn it by observation and imitation without ever being specifically instructed. Once learned, display rules operate as habits, much like driving a car.
Sometimes display rules are more specific in prohibiting a particular facial expression only in a particular role or social situation. For example, at middle-class American weddings, the bride may publicly cry or look sad, as may her parents, but not the groom or his parents For example, at funerals the mourners should adjust their own expressions of grief in relation to the grief of others. There seems to be a pecking order of legitimate claims to grief Their role in social life is the first, most widely shared reason people control their facial expressions.
A personal display rule may also be quite general; histrionic persons customarily over-intensify all emotional expression A third reason for facial control is vocational requirement. Actors, obviously, must be skilled in managing their facial expressions. So must good diplomats, trial attorneys, salesmen, politicians, doctors, nurses, and perhaps even teachers The embezzler must falsely show surprise when the theft is discovered. The husband must inhibit the smile of pleasure on encountering his lover, if in the presence of his wife.
But all four reasons for controlling facial expression can involve false messages or the omission of messages. It is just that society condemns lying more if it is done for personal gain Rather than calling the process lying, we might better call it message control, because the lie itself may convey a useful message.
Unmasking the Face