For the past 28 years, I studied, trained and applied all the channels related to human behavior – from the honest sales rep who wants to make the quote to the complex hostage negotiator who wants to save a life, to lawyers and managers. I was prepared for anything after my work experience. But to teach people to read masked faces? That I did not expect.
Our brain-paleo memory
In the same way, one knows how to cook without practicing or has an inclination to play instruments; we have a genetic memory that helps us adapt. I call it “the library.” Why? Because it holds all the things, we need to survive and protect ourselves and our loved ones.
This memory coded in our brains makes us aware of the surroundings when we go to the store or enter a building.
If you are fortunate to have no damage to your senses, you smell, hear, and talk to other humans as a form of interaction. But what happens when you go from “I’ll see you tomorrow” to isolation and then go back to the street with masks covering half of the people’s faces and no time or learning how to adapt your senses?
Fear causes us to fight, fly, or freeze, and what we have now is a frozen society.
We have 43 muscles on our faces that can make seven universal micro-expressions and thousands of movements. Incorporating a mask to our reality, without proper training or time to adapt, makes people afraid of their reflection.
But what if I tell you that the most important facial expressions happen on the parts of a face that a mask does not cover?
Yes, you can read the seven universal micro-expressions on someone’s masked face. The most significant part of our faces, where our emotions display is on the eyebrows, forehead, and eyes.
The real smile showing joy, or what is called the Duchenne smile,” only happens in the eyes, the same way the eyes show surprise, anger, and sadness.
But even though we can easily read others’ faces with masks, some people are still afraid. For that reason, we at Human Behavior Lab started a study: “Reading Faces with Masks.” We are reading 200 people from different sex, race, and ages called”
We started this study to show people that they can read emotions and meanings on a face, even with a mask. Any organization does not sponsor this study, and all the results will be published for free for everyone to see. In Phase #1, we will read the pictures we receive. In Phase #2, we will teach a control group of people to do the same. The best part, Phase #3, is developing a primary class on how to read, which will be free to the public.
Education, knowledge, and understanding overcome fear, and when we stop feeling fear, we can go back to “the reality” that can make us move again, be safe, and make others safe.
We don’t know how long it will take to be back to not wearing masks, or how long it will take to go back to eating in a restaurant or just sitting next to another person in a cinema. But in the meantime, we can do something.
I know how to read any face, and I teach people how to do it every day. Why not give that knowledge to everyone who needs it? Some essential workers (from people in warehouses fulfilling your orders, to doctors) need to leave the house and go to work.
This study is to give back with knowledge, to help. What are you doing to help others to go back to a safe “normal?” To be part of the study, go to
Susan is a Human Behavior Hacker- some people hack computers. She hacks humans. Susan has 28 years of experience using behavior to apply in sales, communication, negotiation, and everyday life. Susan is the only expert doing all the channels in Deception Detection and Behavior.