I recently started to watch Lie to Me with the overly awesome Tim Roth. About a couple of seconds into the intro I knew it all seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place where I had read about it. Lie to Me is a show starring a deception expert who can tell what people are feeling by interpreting their expressions, mimics and gestures.
It was the part of the intro where they show the „codes“ that make up certain micro-expressions that I immediately recognized. It took me a while to figure it out, but the series is based on Richard Ekman, who I read about in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Gladwell dedicates a whole chapter on what Ekman did, analyzing and categorizing expressions. The idea is that though we’re able to a certain extend to hide our feelings, there are certain kinds of expressions that we cannot help showing what we feel. As a bonus, they seem to be universal. Those micro-expressions are generally hard to see if you’re neither a natural at spotting them or trained to do so.
I liked the idea back when I read about it and it’s getting more attractive with every episode I watch of Lie to Me.
Then a few weeks ago we had a terrible catastrophe at the so-called Love Parade not far from where we lived. (In fact, we changed our weekend plans so that we didn’t have to use any highway or train around the area.) Twenty-one people died in a crowd when a panic broke. The next day there was a press conference with some of the most important guys responsible for the event. It was the weirdest thing you’d ever see. It was obvious no-one was going to say anything of value, since everybody up on stage was afraid of how they would implicate themselves in the tragedy. At that point I really wanted to be able to read micro-expressions. I got the weird feeling that the faces up there told a lot more about what was really up than what they said.
It makes you wonder how different the world would seem if you had the ability to recognize feelings in short fleeting moments. I can only guess it’s another example of an ability that can be both a blessing and a curse. However, it’s awfully cool to think about it and if you haven’t already you should check out Lie to Me. And read Blink. Both. In no particular order.