Learning How to Read Emotions for People with ASD: The Emotion of Displeasure

Heather is not pleased with the TV ad she’s watching and we can tell this by the combination of two subtle signs. First, there is a slight lowering of her brow. We tend to associate this with being puzzled, but it’s also a general negative sign. When the brow is lowered the eyes become more narrow. When we narrow our eyes we are going into a defensive mode. The opposite of this would be when we are relaxed and the eyes open wide to the world around us.

How to Recognize Emotions Through Body Language: Fascination

Reading Emotions

Heather smiles gently as she watches the video about a celebration in Africa. To be fascinated by something means that it captures your imagination and you want to give it your full attention. Heather leans forward (always a sign of interest) towards the TV screen.

She stares intently at the screen, following the action with her eyes. Active thinking is a central part of fascination. We can see thinking going on in the way she strokes her lip with her little finger. We get the sense that she is ‘in the moment’, giving her complete attention to the screen.

In a split second when she’s intensely interested her eyes close a little and then widen. If you look carefully you will also see an intake of breath.

Signs to note

  • gaze follows the action on the screen
  • she leans forwards
  • strokes her lip with her finger
  • a widening smile with closed lips

To see stills on this emotion visit our website:

http://www.momentumresearch.co.uk/emotions-a-to-z.html

By Dr. John Habershon

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

How to Recognize Disbelief or Irritation Through Facial Expressions

Reading Emotions

We often see more than one emotion on the face at the same time. Watch this video to see how disbelief or irritation can be expressed through facial expressions.

Beth is watching an action-packed trailer for some TV shows and she finds the voiceover unconvincing and the scenes coming at such as fast pace she can’t keep up.

Her lowered brow and narrow eyes show that she not only disbelieves what she is hearing – she finds it puzzling to the point of irritation.

She gently shakes her head in disbelief. Her mouth is pulled up towards her nose in irritation.

Signs to note

  • lowers her eyebrows
  • narrows her eyes
  • pulls up her mouth under her nose
  • a slow shake of the head

By John Habershon

An instructional video on how to recognize the emotion, contempt

Reading Emotions: Contempt

The dictionary defines contempt as a feeling that someone or something is worthless. Here Patrick is talking about his experience of really poor customer service.

He felt he was treated badly, and we can see he is agitated by the quick nodding and shaking of his head as he recalls the experience.

The key sign of contempt is the curl of the upper lip. Also we see he is wrinkling both nostrils, as if there is a bad smell.

Anger makes him look away briefly as he struggles to contain his emotion. His lip curls again as he raises his eyebrows to emphasis his point.

Signs to note

  • nods quickly
  • looks away briefly
  • curls his upper lip
  • wrinkles his nose
  • shakes his head
  • raises eyebrows rapidly

By John Habershon

Reading Emotions: Confusion

Carrie is more than puzzled by the question she has just been asked; she is confused.

Her eyes give away her feelings of confusion in different ways.

Firstly, there is a lack of focus as she looks into the middle distance trying to find an answer.
Secondly, there are several changes in direction as she looks up and down, racking her brain for a response. This lack of focus and rapid change in the direction of the gaze is always a sign of mental struggle, discomfort or even distress.

She also wrinkles her nose and brow.

Carrie’s mouth shows her exasperation. She closes her mouth tightly, holds her breath and pushes her lips forward.

Signs to note

  • gazes into the middle distance
  • wrinkles her mouth and nose
  • rapid change of the direction of her gaze
  • narrows her eyes
  • blinks
  • closes her lips and pushes them forward

By John Habershon

Reading Emotions: Concentration

How can we tell when someone is thinking hard about a question?

There are some simple signs when a person’s mind is really working – when a problem holds their attention completely. It takes effort, and we often see this in movement in the mouth and the brow.

Amanda is looking directly at John, but we can see by her gaze that her brain is fully engaged. As she reflects on the question, she glances away and then back. The combination of working her mouth, and her steady gaze shows she is completely absorbed in thinking about the issue.

She also nods to indicate that she is considering the question carefully.

Signs to note

  • a steady gaze
  • compresses her lips and pulls mouth to the side
  • shifts gaze briefly to the side
  • chews her lip
  • nods

By John Habershon

Reading Emotions: Acceptance

We don’t go through life strongly agreeing or disagreeing with what our friends or colleagues tell us. More often we simply accept what is said. In fact among friends, in particular, simple acceptance is the normal response.

 (Note: there is purposely no audio with the above video)

So this first expression of emotion is a good place to begin. It’s an example of something subtle and commonplace, but nevertheless important to read. For example, if you want to run through a plan for when to do a chore today, or what to buy for dinner. How can you tell when someone accepts what you are saying? We will see later in this series when someone looks actively interested, but this example is more subtle.

It’s when someone is saying, “Yes, sure I’ll buy that” or “Yes, I’ve thought about it and it’s okay”.

Reading Emotions: Boredom

We can see that Laura is not interested in the statement she is reading. Her gaze is unfocused, her eyes look blank. She’s zoning out.

But she is not just uninterested. She finds the idea on the page boring, which we see from her compressed lips and the downturned corners of her mouth.

Boredom is closely related to tedium, the repetition of something which holds little interest. We all want our minds to be stimulated. Sometimes things can be too predictable and we just want to move on to something else. She looks away, having had enough.

Signs to note

  • compressed mouth with downturned corners
  • blank eyes
  • blinking
  • unfocused gaze
  • looking away

By John Habershon

Reading Emotions: Awkwardness

Awkwardness is about feeling a little unsure, suddenly feeling self-conscious. We can see the signs in the way Evan moves his body and avoids eye contact.

He is talking about something quite personal, which makes him feel rather uncomfortable.

There is a defensiveness about his posture, resting his chin on his fist, partially covering his mouth, looking away and then rubbing his eye nervously.