Reading Emotions: Discomfort

How to read the feeling of discomfort in facial expressions and body language

In the last blog we looked at more than one emotion on the face (Disbelief/Irritation). This week one overwhelming and strong emotion is showing through: discomfort.

Benjamin is watching a somewhat controversial TV ad and although he sits quite still we can see several signs which point to his discomfort.

He takes a deep breath and quickly shifts the direction of his gaze, attempting not to focus too sharply on what he’s been asked to watch. He breathes out and closes his eyes for a second (too long to be a blink) in an effort to shut out the scene on the TV.

When we look at something which we find disturbing (or even think of something we find uncomfortable) we often close our eyes, as if that will give us a moment of respite.

Benjamin continues watching, but with a blank stare, his mouth tightly closed.

Signs to note

  • an unfocused gaze
  • a deep intake of breath
  • he blinks with discomfort
  • closes his eyes
  • continues watching with a blank look

By John Habershon

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Dr John Habershon has spent many hundreds of hours conducting in-depth interviews during his career in consumer and social research. Over the last eight years he has analysed the nonverbal responses captured on video on a wide range of topics, ranging from favorite products and advertising on TV, to bereavement and stress at work. He became involved in work for those on the autism spectrum through friends with Asperger's in the family and has created Emotions Reader, (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/readingemotionssystem) an interactive program with quizzes to help users identify facial expressions. John has a long standing interest in understanding emotions, having gained his PhD on the psychological effects of unemployment at Imperial College, London University. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. http://www.momentumresearch.co.uk/

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