Disingenuous expressions are everywhere.  We are taught from a young age to make our faces look differently than we feel. I always caught a fair amount of grief for the sour expressions I failed to filter.  It didn’t take too long before I realized that showing my true feelings all the time was a great way to alienate people.  For this reason, Dr. Eckman says that “the face often contains two messages- what the liar want to show and what the liar wants to conceal.”  The trick to uncovering deception is being able to separate the two.

CRIME: Emotions that people try to hide sometimes can’t be helped.  Liars often have giveaways.  We already watched the eyes, and now we will zoom out a bit and look at the rest of the face.  Sometimes people aren’t very good at hiding their emotions and these signals will be clear.  Other times, people have a lot at stake in a lie and are good at covering them up.  It is in those cases that you have to study expressions carefully because one of these give-away expressions may only show in a split second.

The foreheadshows 2 emotions that are very hard, if not impossible to control.  Fear and sadness both have distinct characteristics that less than 15% of people tested could control.  For sadness (and sometimes guilt), the eyebrows are pulled up and in, giving the eyelids a triangular shape.  For fear, eyebrows are raised and pulled together, pulling the eyelids up.  Often times the forehead looks scrunched together as a result. If someone has done a crime or told a lie, they may feel guilty about it or fearful of getting caught.  If so, these expressions help you read that.  Also, if someone says they are sad, but they lack the corresponding forehead movement, then they are faking it.

Eyebrows up and in, this guy’s distress is genuine

The mouth is another feature that can have tell tale expressions.  Most people cannot voluntarily turn the corners of their lips downward without also moving their chin muscles.  However, when someone is sad, that expression happens automatically.  Sometimes a liar will slightly turn up the corners of his mouth when he thinks he has gotten away with a lie.

Reddening, pallor, and sweating are all autonomic responses that cannot be controlled.  If the forehead or the upper lip are sweating, this is a sign of strong emotion and could mean deception.  Turning red or stark white are both signs of extreme emotion like anger or fear.  Pay attention to what caused this response in your subject, and you will be tuned into something he’s trying to hide.

Asymmetry in expressions means that the expression is false. Unless someone always has a crooked smile (which is a possibility), a smile that is tilted off to one side is a feigned one.  Eyebrow raising or lowering, nose wrinkling, lip stretching will all signal fake emotion if they are unequal.


People use those expressions to add emphasis to their statements.  Therefore, they can also manipulate those expressions to add credability to a lie.  Also, it is easier to hide an emotion if you cover it up with a different one.

Surprise or disbelief is shown with two raised eyebrows. However, in true surprise, completion of the expression lasts less than a second

Anger and concentration are both shown by bringing both eyebrows down.   The expression itself is easy to make, but timing of these expressions is hard to fake.  If someone is really angry, their angry expression will come across on the face before it’s shown anywhere else.  Example:  Someone says, “I am outraged!” and then bangs a fist on the table. If the facial expression comes after the words or the action, the emotion is fake.  If it comes before them both, it is genuine.

Convincing smile. You’d be shocked at how many people this girl could convince of her happiness. The lack of crows feet give her away…

Smile cover ups come in two varieties.  Either you are feeling a negative emotion that you want to hide with a smile, or you are trying to hide a smile that comes from pleasure .  There are a bunch of different smiles, too many to describe here, but the important thing to remember is how to identify each of those two different smiling scenarios.  In the first, someone is feeling sad, mad, frightened, shamed, etc.  To hide this they send out a decoy smile to show that they are not feeling one of those negative emotions, but that they are actually happy.  Remember that you an always distinguish a false smile from a felt smile by looking at the eyes (see last blog).  In the second case, someone is pleased about something they feel they shouldn’t be pleased with so they cover their smile by pulling their lips out or down.  Often the correction itself is a giveaway because it takes so much effort.

Learning how to identify all of these characteristics is relatively easy to do.  Study expressions of those around. Test your skills by playing two truths and a lie, trying to take today’s lesson into account.