The Eight Styles of Facial Expressions

Mood Ring

Paul Ekman discusses The Eight Styles of Facial Expressions in his book; Unmasking the Face. What is YOUR facial style? The eight styles of facial expressions are: the withholder, revealer, unwitting expressor, blanked expressor, substitute expressor, frozen-affect expressor, ever-ready expressor, or the flooded-affect expressor.

(1) Withholder. This is simply based on whether a person has an expressive or an unexpressive face – do you move your face, or do you not? You may know someone who rarely shows how they feel, not in a deliberate attempt to conceal; they just don’t show their feelings.

(2) Revealer. This is the other side of whether a person has an expressive or an unexpressive face – there are people where you ALWAYS know how they feel, similar to how most children write their emotions across their faces.

(3) Unwitting expressor. Some people don’t know what appears on their faces, where they don’t know they are showing it. These people often wonder how it is that people know they are angry, sad etc, as they had no idea anything was displaying on their face. They usually have one or two emotions in particular they display unwittingly.

(4) Blanked expressor. These people are convinced they are displaying an expression on their face, when in fact their face looks neutral – or at best – ambiguous. Similar to the unwitting expressor, their blanked expressions are specialised to just one or two emotions they “blank” out.

(5) Substitute expressor. Does someone’s face show they’re disgusted when they’re actually angry? Or look sad when they’re angry or angry when they feel sad? This expressor substitutes the appearance of one emotion for another, without the person being aware. These people think they are expressing their felt emotion, and it is difficult to convince them otherwise.

(6) Frozen-affect expressor. This style shows a trace of another emotion in some part of their face, even when they’re not feeling any emotion. Instead of looking neutral, someone may appear sad due to their lip corners being slightly down or the inner corners of their eyebrows are slightly raised, they could appear mildly disgusted / contemptuous in neutral, angry, or worried. Why? Genetics or habitual muscle memory from long term muscle contractions – people who are frozen-affect expressors usually do not know it.

(7) Ever-ready expressor. Does a person’s initial response to almost anything to look surprised, worried, disgusted..? The ever-ready expressor characteristically shows one of the emotions as their first response to almost any situation, replacing whatever they are actually feeling. It does not need to be a full expression, e.g. could be one eyebrow raise in surprise, just the nose wrinkle of disgust etc. This style is probably unaware of this characteristic.

(8) Flood-affect expressor. This person always shows one or two emotions almost all the time. There is never feeling neutral, the flooded emotion is a continuation which other emotions blending then eventually being squelched out back to their version of baseline neutral. E.g. if a person is flooded with fear, then they will look at least a little afraid all the time; if they become angry, they will look angry and afraid – or more likely – the fear will overwhelm the angry (at least in appearance). These people have normally suffered a major life crisis, and both they and everyone around them are aware they are flood-affected expressors. &

About Stu Dunn

With a background in sales and behavioural science, I enjoy learning more about people, behaviour, psychology - which led into motivation - and more recently - sales again. Having started my own real estate company with my wife, it's time to merge interests.
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