Keep in mind that microexpressions are useful when they appear out of congruency with other gestures or language. It is when the facial expression is out of tune with what is being said. For example, telling a positive story while smiling and momentarily flashing a microexpression can mean that the person is lying. Here are some microexpressions with respect to emotions. [note that images show true expressions which might be held for a time, whereas a microexpression will not persist, only flash quickly before disappearing]
Fear: Raising the upper eyelids and showing the whites of the eyes, raising the inner brow and folding the eyebrows inward (activation of the grief muscle), lowering the brow and or tightening of the eyelid. A grimace usually comes across the face.
A tongue jut is thought to have evolutionary origins as a food rejection mechanism. We stick our tongues out to show distaste – either for others or even for what we’ve said ourselves.
Pushing the tongue through compressed lips is used to signal a cheeky attitude when done amongst friends, but has a more sinister meaning when done in competitive situations. “Tongue-jutting” is used in this case when people think they have gotten away with something, or have been caught doing something they shouldn’t have. However, in this case the tongue usually is pushed through the teeth and doesn’t touch the lips.
The gesture will be seen at the conclusion of an episode such as signing a contract or winning a hand at poker by bluffing. Most of the time tongue protrusion happens when people feel they haven’t been caught, but sometimes it’s actually because they’ve been caught. The statement reads “I’ve gotten away with this”, “I’m telling a cheeky joke or making a cheeky statement”, “I’ve made a mistake” or “I’ve been caught trying to pull a fast one.” Tongue through the lips or teeth can happen any place at anytime but signals the same thing almost everywhere and that is that a person is doing something that is pushing the envelop of acceptability or has gotten caught doing something that is unacceptable. Obviously if we notice this tongue language we should review what has been said and suspect highly that we’ve been fooled, cheated, that we or someone around us has been made the butt of a joke, or that the tongue protruder has realized they’ve made a mistake.
ONE. The tight lipped smile with low intensity. This smile happens as the lips are stretched across the face and no teeth are showing. The tight lipped smile can vary with intensity as well, and it is directly related to the amount the lips are raise in the corners of the mouth. The low intensity smile has very little upward curl in the corner of the mouth and indicates a hidden attitude or thought, uncertainty, hesitation or lack of confidence. In this smile the lips are stretched toward the ears with no curl using muscles called the risorius. The risorius muscles are unable to raise the corner of the lips. Small babies have been shown to use this smile for all others except their mothers whom they reserve the use of the true smile. This smile is used to placate others or to pose for photographs when we aren’t in the mood. Strangers passing on the street might also use this shallow smile as a form of greeting or acknowledgement. The smile is a feigned or dishonest smile so that others don’t catch on that we actually don’t like them. It might also appear out of nervousness or stressed, so it can appear when meeting new people. For this reason we can call the tight lipped smile the “polite smile.” When the tight lipped smile with low intensity happens in conversation in can serve to negate the previous statement. For example, a man might say about his boss “He’s a great boss, I’d switch companies and follow him anywhere if he left.” and this might be followed by a tight lipped smile serving to negate the comment.
TWO. Tight lipped smile with high intensity. This is a variation on the smile above, yet the corners of the lips rise even further with some teeth showing. The lips are slightly separated, the corners of the mouth are upturned, gaze is steady and warm and the posture is relaxed. We find this smile appearing when meeting new acquaintances, so it’s not a full honest smile, but does show openness to others. The tight lipped smile with high intensity is more appropriate for acquaintances because a full smile is reserved for our friends and family and would only come off as insincere with new company. A full smile around new people would lead them to think “What’s that guy’s problem, he’s grinning like we were the best of friends, yet we just met.”
THREE. The uneven smile. We might see this smile associated with tongue-in-cheek humour or sarcasm. The smile happens when only one side of the face sports a smile and the other side does not. The opposite side may even be down turned or frowning. The uneven smile depicts a frame of mind in which opposite emotions are present. The uneven smile would accompany cheeky humour amongst friends and would crack to show others that sarcasm was intended. We rarely see this expression aside from in the West, since sarcasm is much less common around the world.
FOUR. The upper smile. In this smile, the upper lid is raised to expose only the top row of teeth, but the true significance is that the lower teeth remain hidden. In the upper smile the jaw and teeth remain closed and the message conveyed is of medium pleasure and comes off as insecure. Used car salesman, who beam light from their teeth in this way, will seem to have a hidden agenda.
FIVE. The grin or smirk. The smirk indicates smugness and arrogance. It is a tight lipped smile with the addition of a degree self satisfaction for good measure. A nervous smile often appears like a smirk but they are not to be confused. The smirk has accompanying dominant body language such as head back, shoulders back, open postures along with dialogue riddle with exuberant pride. The smirk will happen too when someone is under direct verbal attack. It’s the sort of face that makes you want to say “Wipe that grin off your face”. Sometimes though the smirk is due to the stress of being put under fire and isn’t always an attempt at questioning authority.
SIX. Broad smile. In this smile the upper and lower teeth are made visible. The gaze is relaxed and the smile is intended to convey joy and pleasure. This is a true smile and not one that is easily faked. The tell tale sign of an honest smile, is the appearance of crow’s feet in the corners of the eyes. Crow feet make it seem as though the eyes are smiling. It is difficult to replicate these smiles without being truly amused or in good company as the muscles are usually out of our conscious control. We should be careful to use this smile, as with all smiles, when most appropriate, as in the wrong context will simply appear insincere.