Most of us think we’re good at reading facial expressions. But a new study shows that what we’re really responding to is body language. Here are the facts:
Researchers showed volunteers pictures of professional tennis players who’d just won or lost a major championship. One group saw close-ups of the player’s faces. Another group saw photos with the heads cropped off. And the rest saw the complete image. And each volunteer was asked to guess the emotional state of the people in each photograph.
The result: Surprisingly enough, those who saw just the faces were clueless! But volunteers who saw the body photos — with or without a face — were able to accurately guess which player was happy, and which one was upset.
To double-check the results, the researchers photoshopped the winning faces onto the losing bodies, and vice versa. But the volunteers were still able to accurately identify to winning and losing bodies.
And get this: When the researchers asked how they did it, every single volunteer was convinced they’d read the facial expressions. Even though the results clearly showed that it was all down to body language.
So, why is body language the real clue to a person’s state of mind? Because when someone’s experiencing an intense emotion, their facial expressions tend to merge together which makes it difficult to figure out what they’re really feeling. But pride, and excitement, and joy is easy to read in their posture, and body position.