Microexpressions are sometimes involuntary movements of certain facial muscles, in response tosome basic emotionthat the person is experiencing in a certain situation.

Therefore, being micro, in order to detect themit becomes necessary to study how each one is presented, the movements that the face exerts at the time of showing them and the relationship they have withgestural communication, which in certain cases, the person performs unconsciously.

In this sense, in the following article, you will know what microexpressions are about, their characteristics, the types and the most basic micro gestures that the human being makes when expressing himself.

What are microexpressions?

The American psychologist and considered the pioneer in defining microexpressions in the twentieth century, Paul Ekman (1), argues that “These expressions provide a complete picture of the emotion that is sought to hide, but so ephemeral that it usually goes unnoticed”. (2)

In addition, the author highlights that amicroexpression can appear on the face for a quarter of a secondand then fade, which often makes themundetectable, however, they are the key to decipheringwhat the person feels at a certain moment and the factor that betrays those who usually lie about their emotions.

Important: Paul Ekman, says that withinbody language, microexpressions are one of themost important factors to know what the other person really feels, but these can be camouflaged with other expressions when the individual feels vulnerable in front of their emotions.

Characteristics of microexpressions

The microexpressions have a series of characteristics that make them uniquecompared to the other movements made by the face, as part of the facial expressions using the muscles of the face, which are used to give life to each micro gesture.

Constitute involuntary facial expressions

Note: Within Non-verbal communication and body language , it is the micro-expressions that give people away when they are expressing a lie, exaggeration or feelings that they try to hide.

They are biological and universal gestures

In this sense, microexpressions are part of the gestures that the human being uses to express some emotion, being mostly Biological Facial Movements , such as crying or laughter of children and of a universal nature as they are expressions that denote feelings. known in all regions of the world.

They occur in high-risk situations

Mostly, the emotions and micro gestures that people make are thanks to the Survival Instincts that every subconscious possesses at the moment in which it evaluates and considers that it is or will be subjected to a risky situation for its physical or mental integrity.

Note: Microexpressions usually appear at such moments, as part of the different thoughts and emotions that the individual experiences in adverse situations.

They reflect the emotions of the moment

Microexpressions are involuntary responsesToThe Basic Emotions that every human being experiences throughout his life, therefore, they are the result of what the person reflects on his face in certain situations, such as: when he expresses lies, happiness, sadness, disgust or surprise.

They allow to study psychological and physiological mechanisms

Specialists in the area of health, especiallyPsychologists and Psychiatrists , as well as Police officers , use Micro-expressions and gestural communication in different people who are trying to hide a condition or a crime.

This is because most people are not able to control these micro facial gestures when expressing what they really feel, therefore, these professionals focus on studying and using their knowledge when discovering lies or treating patients through psychological level .

Types of microexpressions

Microexpressions are categorized into three types, each of these are in line with the emotions and the message that the person wants to convey.

In this sense, taking into account that, depending on the degree of consciousness that the individual possesses when expressing himself, he can manipulate the facial and body gestures that he is using to distract or persuade the listener.


This happens when the microexpression is being manipulated by the person so as not to show the emotionthey really feel. These types of expressions are accompanied bylies or false testimonies that are commonly related to distorted messages for the benefit of the individual.


Neutral microexpressions denote few gestures on the face , usually appear in people who find it difficult to express their emotions , therefore, they suppress what they feel to such an extent that the muscles and nerve endings of their face are not capable of Connect with your subconscious.


False expressions or masked emotions are those that are covered up so that the other person is not able to guess or knowwhat you are really feeling. These types of microexpressionsare conscious , that is, the individual must learn to hide her feelings for her own benefit.

Fun fact: The well-knownPokerFace orPoker Face, are a set of covert microexpressions thatpoker playersuse to not show their emotions to their rivals during this card game.

What are the basic microexpressions?

Microexpressions, being gestures emitted by the muscles of the face in response to what the person is feeling, have certain featuresthat characterize each one, that is, the different facial gestures are specific to each microexpression in particular. Next you will know the basic microexpressions and their gestures:


Fear is reflected in the face when the person raises the upper part of the eyelid, opens the eyes, raises the eyebrows and in some cases joins them or the lips are stretched horizontally, each of the above are microexpressions thatcan appear when the individual feels fear for some reason.

Note: These expressions are instinctive and difficult to control , taking into account that fear, like all basic emotions, is linked to surprise and, in particular, fear or the sensation of danger are accompanied by various survival instincts.


This expression is shown in the person when he slightly squeezes his eyelids, which denotes that he is focused on the situation that causes him anger .

The inner part of the eyebrows come together and descend, while the forehead is tense, in addition, the jaw is raised, becoming more prominent as a Defiant Gesture and the lips are pursed in a tense and firm horizontal line.

Important: Anger can be shown according to the different levels and characteristics of anger , therefore, the aforementioned microexpressions can be shown in greater or lesser concentration depending on the degree of annoyance that the person experiences.


This emotion is expressed with a slight asymmetrical smile when the person wants to hide it, while when it is true the individual smiles broadly, their cheekbones rise and pronounce and small lines of expression appear on the side of the eyes.


This microexpression is demonstrated with adescent in the upper eyelidand the inner corners of the eyebrows rise and lines appear on the forehead by the lower eyebrows.

In addition, the corners of the lips also descend, marking a slightorinverted and sometimes, a slight pronouncement of the lower lip occurs, whichdenotes that the person has feelings ofsadness.


The surprise is a characteristic emotionthat accompanies part of the other basic emotions, however, when expressing it the personusually considerably expands their eyes, the upper eyelids and eyebrows rise, the jaw descends and the mouth opens slightly.

Note: This microexpression has its degree of impact by the amplitude of the eyes and mouth that the person demonstrates at the time of receiving the surprise, that is, the smaller the sample of surprise, the smaller the size of the opening of the eyes and lips.


Disgust is characterized by being one of themost difficult microexpressions to fake, since, the personusually wrinkles the noseas a gesture of disapproval of what he is observing or feeling. The lips usually take different forms depending on the level of disgust, usually, they contract and express small wrinkles around them.

Note: Disgust is not only experienced by strange tastes in food, it can also be denoted by feeling rejection by some person, animal, thing, political tendency, religion and any type of tastes or interests other than what the individual considers as healthy or correct


Note: Contempt is shown in the face, when there is a unilateral movement of the muscles located above the upper lip, thus curving said area slightly upwards.

Key Findings

  • Microexpressions are short-term facial gestures that people use when feeling certain emotions.
  • Gestural communication can be controlled by people when they learn to be aware of the gestures they use when expressing themselves.
  • There are fake microexpressions, which are used by people who do not want to be discovered or who often tell lies.
  • They are expressions known worldwide, of a biological nature, that is, they are transmitted from one generation to another.
  • Specialists in the field of body language, use microexpressions to interrogate criminals or to know the degree of mental stability that people possess.

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