How do you face the world? With a smile, with a frown, with an arched brow? I have been thinking about faces a lot lately. This is partly because in my office (pictured on the website) the glass wall I sit facing is currently covered with pictures of actresses who we are considering as cover stars for Psychologies. All well-known faces, they are blown up to A4, and I sit here rather dazzled by their starry smiles or sultry stares.
Professionals of stage and screen, they know how to express an emotion when called upon to act it. We believe them when we see them cry or fall in love or die in a movie or play. But at Psychologies, we want to find out what makes them tick as real women. I look at them one by one, and ask myself: Have they got what we are looking for?
My ruminating on these faces is compounded by my recent experience of two 25-hour flights in a 10-day day period. With a dire selection of movies on board, I resorted to the TV option and became an instant fan of Lie To Me, an American series starring Brit actor Tim Roth. He is a psychologist with expertise in judging whether people are being truthful - or not. I must have watched half a dozen of the series in quick succession and found it a. entertaining and b. fascinating.
I should have known that my colleagues back in the office would know a little more about the science behind the popular series. Turns out that Roth’s character is based on Paul Ekman, an American psychologist who has pioneered the study of emotions and their relationship to facial expressions.
The story of Ekman’s research is full of great stuff about grinning and grimacing, but my favourite piece of information was that you cannot fake a real smile. Your eyes won’t crinkle in the right way if you’re not really amused.