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Facial Emotional Indicators


Explanations > Emotions > Facial Emotional Indicators


Here are some of the facial signals that you might see for different emotions. Do note that these are only possible indicators: not all signals are needed and not all signals indicated here necessarily indicate the associated emotion.


Emotion Facial signals
Anxiety Eyes damp; eyebrows slightly pushed together; trembling lower lip; chin possibly wrinkled; head slightly tilted down.
Fear Eyes wide, closed or pointing down; raised eyebrows; mouth open or corners turned down; chin pulled in; head down, white face.
Anger Eyes wide and staring; eyebrows pulled down (especially in middle); wrinkled forehead; flared nostrils; mouth flattened or clenched teeth bared; jutting chin, red face.
Happiness Mouth smiling (open or closed); possible laughter; crows-feet wrinkles at sides of sparkling eyes; slightly raised eyebrows; head level.
Sadness Eyes cast down and possibly damp or tearful; head down; lips pinched; head down or to the side.
Envy Eyes staring; mouth corners turned down; nose turned in sneer; chin jutting.
Desire Eyes wide open with dilated pupils; slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly parted or puckered or smiling; head tilted forward.
Interest Steady gaze of eyes at item of interest (may be squinting); slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly pressed together; head erect or pushed forward.
Boredom Eyes looking away; face generally immobile; corners of mouth turned down or lips pulled to the side; head propped up with hand.
Surprise Eyes wide open; eyebrows raised high; mouth dropped wide open with consequent lowered chin; head held back or tilted to side.
Relief Eyebrows tilted outwards (lowered outer edges); mouth either tilted down or smiling; head tilted.
Disgust Eyes and head turned away; nostrils flared; nose twisted in sneer; mouth closed, possibly with tongue protruding; chin jutting.
Shame Eyes and head turned down; eyebrows held low; skin blushing red.
Pity Eyes in extended gaze and possibly damp; eyebrows slightly pulled together in middle or downwards at edges; mouth turned down at corners; head tilted to side.


So what?

Observe people carefully, in particular their faces to detect emotion. Also watch indicators in other parts of their body (for example an angry person might have clenched fists).

When you know how they are feeling, you can respond accordingly. It is worth remembering that when people are feeling strong emotions they are unlikely to respond to rational argument.

See also

Using Body Language

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