How good are you at reading people’s faces?

_46205526_face1_glas_466Most people might think that looking at people’s faces is a great way of overcoming language barriers, but apparently, how you read them could depend on your cultural background.

A recent study has shown that Western and Asian cultures read facial expressions very differently.

Volunteers from East Asia and the West were asked to look at what are considered to be universal facial expressions, used to convey emotions like fear, disgust, surprise and anger.

They discovered that Westerners scanned the whole face, whereas East Asian observers focused mainly on the eyes. By ignoring the mouth they were confused by expressions for fear and disgust, often misreading them as ‘surprise’ and ‘anger’.

Has misreading someone’s expression ever led to a funny or difficult encounter for you?

Be it funny, serious or sad, we at Weekend World Today would love to hear about your culturally confusing experience…

11 Responses to “How good are you at reading people’s faces?”

  1. 1 bjay
    August 14, 2009 at 18:26

    How good are you at reading people’s faces?

    Now you’re talking!
    Between the fool moon and the everyday Joes days?
    I say a lot.com.
    Biological reality and the universal electrical magnetic foresees of reality just simly reflec on your face [the days],com
    Ye ! This is what you call ‘gullas’ from ‘hungry’. If it is too heavy , just put it down.I’ll be back to your liking with a ‘pancake’.com.

  2. 2 Tom K in Mpls
    August 14, 2009 at 19:37

    The first post looks like a computer generated joke. I find many people often control their expressions (me included) either to strengthen their issue ( joke, scheme, debate…) or out of the fear of not being politically correct.

    As for cross cultural issues, if you don’t understand the reason for the expression the expression itself does not mean a lot. And yes it can cause events, but most are not memorable to me.

  3. August 14, 2009 at 20:13

    I dunno, I cannot seem to catch myself reading others faces, If I do it, it all happens instinctively and subtly.

    I suppose I do actually read faces, since I can only manage to guess other people’s emotions when I look into their eyes.

  4. 4 Tom D Ford
    August 14, 2009 at 21:29

    My understanding is that new born babies are very good at reading emotions, that they rely on emotional feedback loops with their mothers for their development.

    Now, if that is the case, then a question arises; how is that ability trained or subverted out of them?

    I suggest that the way religions are installed has a lot to do with it.

    Somehow, when people learn language they leave behind or let atrophy, the ability to read emotions.

    The English alphabet has 26 letters and so has a certain number of possible combinations (or permutations, I forget which) for words in speaking and writing.

    But the human face has something like 46 different muscles to use in expressing emotions and since each muscle has a range the number of possible emotional expressions must be far higher than spoken or written language.

    So. What have we gained by developing symbolic language and what have we lost by ignoring emotional richness?

  5. 5 Dennis Junior
    August 16, 2009 at 02:17

    Actually, in most situations…I don’t do that good of a job when reading a person’s face…

    =Dennis Junior=

  6. August 16, 2009 at 11:34

    I read eyes not faces.

  7. 7 T
    August 17, 2009 at 00:39

    This then proves a point. If Muslim women come to the West and want to fit in, Unfortunately people won’t like you covering your face. You can complain all you want about it. You can even go to the EU Human Rights Commission. But odds are, to fit in you need to adapt. Otherwise, maybe you should go elsewhere.

  8. 8 Tan Boon Tee
    August 17, 2009 at 04:18

    For most people, their body language would betray their inner emotion.

    Some facial expressions happen to be common for everyone, cutting across cultural and ethnic origins. However, certain body expressions seem to be unique to particular culture or ethnic group.

    Nowadays, a number of people have learned how to hide their feelings well, literally wearing different masks in different situations. The bottom line is do not jump into conclusion too fast when reading faces.

  9. 9 patti in cape coral
    August 17, 2009 at 13:41

    When I have traveled to South America, I notice that I smile more than the people around me. My husband warned me not to go around smiling so much, it makes me stand out as a foreigner and it is seen as flirtatious by some men. It’s hard to stop your face from doing what it’s used to doing!

    I think I am OK at reading people’s faces, but I don’t take it too seriously, because people are polite and don’t always give away what they are really thinking.

  10. 10 Dinka Aliap Chawul.Kampala,Uganda
    August 17, 2009 at 15:11

    Am scared of these faces….!!!

  11. 11 Jennifer
    August 17, 2009 at 16:57

    I think I am pretty goof at reading other people’s faces! Some people are very expressive and their emotions are easily read but some people are good at keeping the expressions nuetral. I am usually very good at reading facial expressions and body language.

    Babies are quick to learn the sound of their mother’s voice. They are capable of sensing feelings too…babies thrive on eye contact and positive interaction for their development. Smile at a baby and see what happens! 🙂

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