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What Is Your Face Saying?

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Liz Waid and Bruce Gulland look at how the human face communicates. Do you know what messages your face is sending?

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live

Voice 1 

Two eyes. One nose. Lips surrounding a mouth. These simple parts help make up one of the most important part of people’s bodies – the face! You may think your face is just a simple part of your body. But it may be far more important than you think. Do you know what messages your face is sending? Today’s Spotlight is on the human face.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube.

Voice 2 

You are happy! Smile! Now you feel anger. Frown! Point the corners of your mouth down. Make a crease, or line, in the skin above your eyes. By moving your face into these positions, people already know how you feel. You do not even have to say a single word. In fact, some experts believe that your face can produce more than 10,000 different expressions!

Voice 1 

All these expressions are possible because of the muscles in your face. They form a kind of mask over your skull. They are over your forehead, around your eyes, on your nose, through your cheeks, around your mouth, and down your chin. Your face is covered in muscles! To make an expression, you can move a few muscles at the same time. Or you can move only one muscle. Each combination is a different facial expression.

Voice 2 

The expressions on your face send a message to the person who is looking at you. Without using words people can understand how you are really feeling. These facial expressions are a form of non-verbal communication. But did you know that your face may also be sending a message even if you do not want it to?

a young man
What expression is this man making?
Voice 1 

The BBC produced a special series of programs about faces called “The Human Face.” In this program they followed the story of a married couple in England called Eden and Mandy. Eden and Mandy were having a difficult time in their relationship. They fought often. They thought their marriage was probably over! But they decided to try one more thing.

Voice 2 

Mandy and Eden flew to the United States to meet with Dr. John Gottman. Dr. Gottman is a psychologist, a scientist who studies people. The BBC’s “The Human Face” program described how Dr. Gottman attached machines to Eden and Mandy. He asked Eden and Mandy to talk to each other. As they talked, Dr. Gottman and his team of scientists observed how Eden and Mandy’s bodies changed while they talked.

Voice 1 

Dr. Gottman found that arguing was hurting Eden and Mandy’s relationship. But he also believed there was more. Their facial expressions were making things worse! As they fought, Eden and Mandy began to exchange looks of disgust and contempt. These expressions communicate hate and a lack of respect. Eden and Mandy never said they hated each other. But their facial expressions were communicating the message even without words.

Voice 2 

This might make you think about your own facial expressions. What are you communicating with your face? Can you see what other people are communicating with their faces? Experts say that facial expressions are not always the same between cultures. For example, people in one culture may use their eyes more to communicate a message. They will notice when the eyes are more open or closed. They will notice the lines around the other person’s eyes. Reading a person’s face is something we just do. We do not think about it.

Voice 1 

However, experts say there are at least seven facial expressions that everyone on earth can recognize. They are universal expressions. These expressions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, contempt, and disgust. You can probably easily imagine what each of these expressions look like. You do not need language to communicate these feelings – your face can communicate them for you – whether you want it to or not!

7 universal expressions
7 Universal Facial Expressions
By Icerko Lýdia – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25584633
Voice 2 

Have you ever been around a baby? If you have, you know that making funny faces will usually make a baby react, and maybe even laugh. Babies love to see different faces. When does this ability to recognize different facial expressions appear?

Voice 1 

Many scientists have studied how babies react to faces. We do know that babies recognize faces very soon after they are born. In 1974, researchers studied babies who were about nine minutes old. They showed the babies a picture of a face, a picture of shapes, or an empty page. When researchers moved the picture, they observed the babies. Researchers found that babies looked at the picture of a face longer than the other pictures.

a baby with a skeptical expression
Image by ursula_irwin from Pixabay
Voice 2 

Even a few hours after they are born, babies will recognize their mother’s face. They will look at their mother’s face longer than they look at another woman’s face. After a few days, babies can see the difference between a sad or happy face. They begin to copy the expression on a face. And around five months later, babies can recognize that a sad voice goes with a sad face.

Voice 1 

Researchers do not know exactly why or how babies develop these abilities so quickly. It may be that this is an important skill for survival. Babies around eight months old begin to change their behavior based on their mothers’ facial expressions. In one study, researchers looked at one-year-olds. They wanted the babies to walk down a small incline. When the mothers smiled at the babies, the babies walked down the small hill. But when the mothers frowned, the babies did not go down.

Voice 2 

Our faces communicate a lot of information — at every age! We can use our faces to give a message. And we can understand what people are thinking just by seeing their face. Researchers try to understand why we need these skills. Some experts say that people who are good at reading faces have a better chance at building relationships, getting a job, and working well with others. That is, our faces help us to be a part of a community. They connect us with other people.

Voice 1 

Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? What does your face show? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at contact@spotlightenglish.com. You can also find us on Facebook and YouTube.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was James Totton. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. You can listen to this program again, and read it, at www.spotlightenglish.com. This program is called “What Is Your Face Saying?.”

Voice 1 

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android and Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

Question:

Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?

Join the discussion

100 comments
  • Almost yes I can reading faces. Specially when the person who faced me has many situations with me. I can recognize who’s love me and who’s not. Also when I get angry or happy etc , this appers on my face

  • i think the smile on our face is the best communicate way to others. It has strong power to open relationship with each other.
    from fan Spotlight – Vietnamese

  • Thanks Spotlight a lot! This information helps me so much in my communication. I used not to think much about this. Now, I know it’s very important that helps our relationships more better.

  • The iteam is usegull for first timr i knew the facial expersion so now am able to deal with pepole from their faces expersion.
    Thanks spot Light.

  • This episode gives me a piece of interesting information about our facial expressions. With me, I think I’m a good reading faces person. I used to use my face to communicate with other people such as my colleagues, friends, and even though with some strange people I met the first time.

  • I think everyone can read people face’s expressions but sometimes we don’t pay attention on them. Such behavior hurts our relationships.
    Thanks a lot Spotlight.

  • I don’t know that! But I have very clear facial expressions. Everyone notices when I don’t like something.

  • When I talking face to face with someone, They have comment about me like I have serious face communication. So I think in the eyes of public i have serious face communication. But I love people’s who have smiley face reading I really wanna like to have a smiley face reading …!!

  • This is usefull knowledge experience that help me improve facial expression in daily lifes. The voice of two MC are so clearly and sweet which practice listening skills. Appriciate about program.

  • IDK, but I think some people can’t know that they will make other feeling not comfortable by their expression. It’s mean they don’t deliberate. This emotion is maybe fixed emotions.

  • When someone doing a bad thing for me or says a bad word I just use a Facial expression to give them their answer. it’s better than a million words for some people.

  • I never want to express my feel by my face.
    But sometimes, it show naturally and I can’t realize that.
    Such as I happy when I achieved my goals, angry when my boss shouts at me or surprise,… My face will change and other people can realize my feel immediately.

  • I believe I am extremely good at reading people’s faces; these expressions are straightforward and fully understood by me; all that is required is a little attention to the facial expressions of everyone. My face communicates many things to people; I can be happy, surprised, or any combination of these emotions at any given time. Recognizing some of my facial expressions is not difficult.

  • I believe I am not good at reading faces. I am just a basic look at the face of other people and I suggest their emotions at the moment being. Example, They are smiling indicating they are pleased or they are frowning meaning they are furious. I also am practicing conversing face to face. I frequently have a very bright grin to convey the contrary. If I hadn’t had fun I would explain why I hadn’t fun and my face displays the following emotions. In a nutshell, whether I become furious or pleased,… something shows on my face.

  • I believe I am very good at reading people’s expressions. The expressions on their faces told me that something was wrong in a lot of cases. From there, I can maintain good behavior or console, and I can watch out for my friends. Keep an eye on them for a short period of time, I believe you can notice it. However, I have several friends who are excellent at hiding their emotions. It’s just that they always have a smile on their face. I’m not good at reading people’s faces. When people first meet me, they comment that I have an ice-cold expression on my face. But I’m not unapproachable; in fact, I’m always delighted to speak with them, and as a result, they seem to have a new outlook after speaking with me. My closest pals have a natural ability to interpret my expressions. [I’ll be honest, I’m not very good at concealing my feelings.

  • Wow!! It’s really interesting topic. I’ve never thought about this, I can read only some faces like happiness, sadness, angry feelings.

  • Are you good at reading faces?
    yes, i think i’m good at reading this types of behavior, I alwais try to be attentive to this type of things
    What does your face communicate?
    i don’t know but they have told me that i have the face of a bad person

  • I can identify when a person is angry or sad, my face reflects confidence, I am rarely upset

  • -If most of the time I know how the person feels or if something is wrong with the person but sometimes I don’t know what to say or do to help
    -People say that my face looks angry but the reality is that I am not a happy and friendly person

  • I am not so good at reading faces but I try to improve, my face I think communicates that I am a serious person.

  • i’m not good at reading faces because i’m too clueless.
    my face commicates my feelings very obvious.

  • Personally, I don’t think I know how to read faces. My face is very expressive, therefore I think it can communicate several feelings at the same time lol

  • Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate? If I’m good at reading faces, the minister communicates happiness and security.

    Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? What does your face show? if you thought about it, my face communicates a good attitude.

  • Are you godo at reading faces? Yes i am
    What does your face communicate? That i’m angry
    Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? Yes i feel like people think i’m upset

  • I think I’m good at reading faces in most cases, there are just some people who have very difficult face to read.

  • Yes i know reading faces because it’s very important in communication with other people. My face communicate tiredness, happiness and trust.

  • Yes i’m very well at reading faces
    My face always communicate a sadness, because i’m sad every time

  • • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
     Yes, I´ve thought that one’s face must be considered.
    • What does your face show?
     Sometimes my face express joy and sometimes my face is expressionless.
    • Are you good at reading faces?
     I think I am good at reading faces; people’s face communicates a lot.
    • What does your face communicate?
     Most of the time my face is expressionless and communicates that I’m bored.

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    Yes, but it amost always communicates what I’m feeling
    What does your face show?
    They tell me that I have a face of few friends hahaha
    Are you good at reading faces?
    Yes, I easily recognize how they feel just by looking at them
    What does your face communicate?
    My face communicates not to talk to me because I do not want to meet more people

  • Have you ever thought about what your face commuicates to others? What does your face show?
    yes, when I’m worried about something my face always shows anguish or when I’m upset it’s also reflected on my face

    Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?
    If I’m good at reading faces, I always notice if something happens to others and usually my face communicates joy.

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? I’ve honestly never thought about it
    what does your face show? Sometimes happiness but many times my anger
    Are you good at reading faces? To people who are very expressive if
    What does your face communicate? Discontent or happiness

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    No, people tell me
    What does your face show?
    That I don’t want to be spoken to
    Are you good at reading faces?
    Yes, I recognize very easily
    What does your face communicate?
    That I am angry

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    What does your face show? Yes. my face is very expressive of what I feel, that’s why I try not to make expressions that people could be annoyed.

    Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate? yes, sometimes just by seeing the person’s face I understand what they want to convey to me, my face generally does not convey anything if I do not know you, it is usually very serious or it seems that I am angry, but that is only with strangers, when I know you, I can’t stop smiling

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    No , I have nor
    What does your face show?
    I think my face shows seriousness
    Are you good at reading faces?
    No I arent
    What does your face communicate?
    My face show hate

  • If I am good at reading faces, I can find reactions, my face communicates seriousness and sometimes I seem funny.

  • No, I haven’t thought about it but I think it conveys anger or annoyance because I’ve been told that on occasion.
    I think all of us are able to read facial expressions but sometimes we don’t pay attention to it.

  • I think that my face shows calm. Sometimes I try predict what those people are like,
    I consider that I´m good at reading faces, especially womens,

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? What does your face show? Yes, I have. It’s usually happiness.
    Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?
    No, I’m not. I think it communicates happiness, seriousness, sadness, surprise, disgust and anger.

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    Yes, I sometimes try to comunicate how I’m feeling at the moment by my face
    What does your face show?
    Right now, my face show that I’m tired and wan’t to sleep
    Are you good at reading faces?
    No, I think that read faces it’s not one of my virtues

  • Yes, I usually express myself a lot with my face, when I’m angry, happy, sad, surprised, among others.
    If I’m good at reading faces, I can easily detect how the person is by their expressions.

  • Yes I have thought about what my face communicates. My face most of the time communicates happiness.
    I think I am good at reading faces.

  • Yes, I usually express myself a lot with my face, when I’m angry, happy, sad, surprised, among others.
    If I am good at reading faces, I can easily detect what the person is like by their expressions.
    I think it is very easy to detect what the person feels by their faces

  • I consider myself good at reading the face of others, so I have thought many times about what my face communicates, I could conclude that my face shows all the emotions that I live at the moment.

  • 1. No, the truth is, I had not thought about it
    2. A cheerful person who likes to socialize
    3. I’m not good at reading faces

  • Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?

    I think I’m good reading faces, because I’ve never been wrong.

    I think that my face communicate ‘Don’t bother me’, that’s what my friends tell me haha

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    What does your face show?
    Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?

    • 1.-Yes, i have. I feel that I am a person who communicates facially.
      2.-My face show my emotions, if i am bored, my face shows it.
      3.-Sometimes, my face show my emotions and I can read the face of someone else if that person wants something or not.

  • Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?
    i’m good at knowing when they’re mad
    People often tell me that I look serious

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    yes i have, but i think im not very expressive

    What does your face show?
    I think I think my face does not express my emotions sometimes

    Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?
    i think im not very good reading faces but i can read some faces

  • Are you good at reading faces?
    I think yes, at certain moments I can know what someone expresses at some point

    What does your face communicate?
    I think happiness at certain times since I am very happy

  • Are you good at reading faces? If much
    What does your face communicate? that I am serious
    Have you ever thought about what your face
    communicate to others? No

  • Are you good at reading faces? yes, I think I’m a good person to read faces
    What does your face communicate? I think my face communicates that I’m someone serious.

  • I’m not very good at reading faces, but I would like to think that my face communicates security 🙂

  • Important fact is that there are more than 10,000 facial expressions wow! I found this reading very interesting and something I would like to add is that people who communicate with sign language use their facial expressions a lot to communicate.

  • have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    Yes, I’m one to show my facial language a lot
    what does your face show?
    They tell me that I am very serious and reserved
    Are you good at reading faces?
    Yes I am
    What does your face communicate?
    in these moments tiredness and stress

  • Are you good at reading faces? I think if I’m good, I can sometimes help other people by getting them out of awkward situations just by looking at them.
    What does your face communicate? It depends on the situation, but they usually say that I seem like a reserved person.

  • I consider myself good at it, I pay attention to their expressions and my face almost always communicates sleepiness or tiredness due to my dark circles under my eyes, but I am very expressionless depending on the person.

  • Sometimes if I’m good at reading faces and I hit what other people think or feel, and my face shows confidence even though some have told me they think I’m rude.

  • I am good at reading people’s faces, I can quickly identify their expressions and my face always communicates a face of happiness

  • Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? What does your face show?
    Yes I’ve thinked about it. most of the time my face shows happiness.
    Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?
    Most of the time my face communicates happiness, other times surprise, fright, anguish, disgust, etc.

  • Are you good at reading faces? Yes, but that is not even good
    What does your face communicate? i think comunicate angry

  • Yes, i am good reading faces, i feel the emotions of others. My face expresses happiness and nostalgia at the same time

  • -Are you good at reading faces? What does your face communicate?
    I think so, sometimes just by looking at people I know how they feel. My face communicates I think happiness

    -Have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others? What does your face show?
    I feel like it depends on how I feel emotionally is how I show my face.

  • 1.- Sometimes, It depends on who is the person.
    2.- Depends on the attitude you have that day, mostly is happiness.

  • have you ever thought about what your face communicates to others?
    No, I never thought about it
    what does your face show?
    I’m very serious but i’m not
    Are you good at reading faces?
    I’m not
    What does your face communicate?
    Anger and dislike more than anything

  • I’m not good at reading faces because I don’t pay much attention to other people.
    my face communicates my feelings and then they notice how much i have something

  • Yes i know reading faces because it’s very important in communication with other people. My face communicate tiredness,trust and friendliness

  • Are you good at reading faces? I think im good reading faces
    What does your faces communicate? I think how i’m feeling

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