Post Four In A Six-Month Series On People Reading
I’ll save you the typical rundown of clichés about the meaning of the eyes, and instead jump into some simple, to-the-point tells that can be found in and around the eyes.
Dilated pupils mean one of two things: pleasure or stress.
Pleasure as in something the subject enjoys looking at (experiments have shown women’s pupils dilate the most when looking at pictures of a mother and child) such as someone they hold affection for, an object they admire such as a painting or something of value. Pretty much strong positive emotions = dilated pupils and an easily read facial expression. Your pupils will also dilate when you’re on drugs and experiencing a ‘good trip’.
Stress can mean hatred towards someone, or simply stress from a situation. It’s obviously very easy to distinguish why someone’s pupils are dilated. You’ll never find yourself looking at someone with dilated pupils and thinking, “Hm, I can’t tell if they like me or want to strangle me…”
Though someone may have a false smile and dilated pupils, in which case figuring out if the smile is fake will not be challenge, as I will show you below:
It’s All In The Orbits
In medicine and body language alike, the area around the eye is referred to as the orbit, or, if you’re referring to both eyes, the orbits. The muscle that controls facial expressions of emotion around the eye is called the orbicularis oculi (I’ve heard it pronounced every which way, but the most common is simply ‘or-bick-you-lare-is oke-you-lie’).
Orbicularis oculi seen around the eye. Directly above it you see the muscle that covers the forehead, known as the frontalis.
When a smile is genuine, the lower outer corners of the eyes raise, sometimes causing tiny lines around the eyes.
Genuine and false smile shown by the master himself: Paul Ekman.
In case you’re wondering – no, you cannot make the orbit muscles imitate a genuine smile, you’ll see too much action around the nose and it’ll be downright obvious to any observer who knows where to look.
Remember: some facial muscles cannot be sufficiently activated unless they are expressing genuine emotion.
Therefore, you can temporarily display ‘smiling eyes’ by thinking of something that makes you happy, but only momentarily, because you can only hold onto the happiness from a memory for so long before you must endure the present reality and the muscles have no choice but to tell the truth.
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)
Countless times I’ve seen on television shows, in blogs, in books and in magazines a common gargantuan lie. A lie about the eyes and how they reveal deceit. In a nutshell, the notion goes that if someone looks down and to the left while they’re speaking, they are fabricating their story and therefore lying.
But, there is a factor of truth in this – you can get an inkling of where someone’s thoughts are as they speak by noting eye movements, but it will never never never never be as simple as ‘Down + left = lie’. This inkling of truth comes from a concept known as neurolinguistic programming, or NLP. NLP is really much more than a guide to eye tells, but for this post, we’ll only be looking at NLP’s explanation for eye movements.
The basics of NLP go like this:
Someone remembers something they saw: eyes go up.
Someone remembers something they heard: eyes go to the side.
Someone remembers an emotion: eyes go down and to the right.
Someone is talking to themselves: down and to the left.
The problem: while we are speaking, our mind is bouncing all over the place, retrieving information, organizing thoughts, planning on what vocal inflections and volumes to use to get our point across. When we talk, our eyes will bounce around no matter what. So while NLP may be accurate and useful, remember that these signals come in clusters and happen in a fraction of a second. I can tell you from personal experience that after three years of attempting to master these signals, you just have to focus and eventually develop an intuition for it. You may not catch a lot of the signals (they are extremely difficult to catch as they’re happening, more difficult than micro-expressions), but eventually your subconscious will start looking out for them for you and you’ll find you get a lot more ‘gut feelings’ about people and what they say.
But! A note about lying and eye contact:
Despite popular belief, people who are lying will maintain eye contact longer than someone who is telling the truth. Like I said, someone who is talking will have a million things happening at once, one of these things is information retrieval, while a liar will be watching your reaction and will not require certain cognitive functions that a person telling the truth will be using.
Also, a fun trick that I use when I’m addressing a group of people or trying to hold someone’s attention while I explain something (and Heather, if you read this, I wasn’t manipulating you – just attempting to anchor your admirable, occasionally cocker-spaniel-esque attention span…you know I love you!), is using a pen, stick, pointer or any like object when explaining an idea (only when a visual aid of some sort is nearby, like a map, article, object ect.,). It goes simply like this – when explaining an idea, using the pointer to, well, point to the article, and when explaining an important part, bringing the pen up to near eye level, which automatically causes the other person to give you direct eye contact. It works every time, and no one can deny the first few times are extremely fun and amusing and sort of make you feel like the Mentalist. (I learned this trick from books by Bernard Asbell and Allan Pease.)
Must…steal…suit…and hair product…
The average relaxed blinking rate is 6-8 blinks per minute. When we’re under pressure, feel stress and anger, or otherwise a sudden burst of emotion, our blink rate will increase dramatically.
As I mentioned in my post about Harold Camping’s body language during an interview directly after the passing of one of his latest dooms dates, eyes darting from side to side can indicate someone looking for an escape route. I’ve had this happen to me on several occasions, and understanding what the signal meant let me know it was time to wrap up the conversation, lest the image they have of me in their mind become slightly negative and unpleasant.
Experiments have shown that this area is the area most commonly focused on for 90 percent of the time during social encounters. Some researchers believe this is because we feel that not looking directly into someone’s eyes will make us appear nonthreatening.
This gaze is often used in power plays among businessmen – sort of a tool of intimidation. The effect of this gaze, according to Allan Pease, “…has to be experienced to be believed.” It creates a serious atmosphere, and if used unwaveringly, can make the subject feel very uncomfortable.
Like anything in body language, in order to really be able to get accurate reads, you need to:
1. Not read too much into signals.
and 2. Practice, practice, practice. Eventually you’ll develop a reliable ‘spidey sense’.
And, apologies for not giving you much to think about for this one. As I said last time – I promise the next post will be better!
Until I Write Again,