How can we identify indicators of the face, both veracity and deceptive, even when people are wearing masks?
It is true that when people wear masks, the amount of visual cues that we have (the observable surface of the face) is greatly reduced.
But not all masks are created equal. Some cover the entire mouth and lip area while some have a smaller range. So there is some variability.
Regardless of the type of mask, what you can always see is the area above the nose. Some people may have their masks right above their nose, some people have it on the tip of the nose. But you can almost always see above that.
For those of you who have had our training on reading facial expressions of emotion, there’s a lot of things that go on in the upper half of the face. Clearly you can’t see the mouth region, but you can still gather things in the upper face region.
What expressions can you see?
- The wrinkling of the disgust will give you an appearance change between the eyes at the top of the nose.
- The lifting of the upper eyelids in fear or surprise, but especially fear, is also visible.
- You can see the brow and eye movements of surprise
- You can also see inner corners of the brows going up in sadness or distress.
So even though we are not able to see the entire face, there are cues we can pick up. Of course, the fact that those cues can occur need to be on our radar or they will be missed.
If the mask is a little narrower on the face even though you cannot see exactly what’s going on on the sides of the mouth, you can still see some appearance changes a bit more laterally of the lips. So you can still kind of get whether the person is smiling or whether there’s a little contempt there. Those are also some important signals we can get.
The big message is: even if someone is wearing a mask, don’t abandon the thought that we can pick up cues in the face.
Want to learn how to read facial expressions of emotion where a portion of the face is covered?
Consider our SubX Subtle Expression Training, originally funded by and developed for US government agencies. This online training will teach you how to recognize subtle expressions – facial expressions of emotion of lower intensity that can occur as fast as 1/16th of a second.