Micro facial expressions and TEACHING and LEARNING

Micro facial expressions and TEACHING and LEARNING

Microexpressions are likely signs of concealed emotions. (They may also be signs of rapidly processed but unconcealed emotional states.) They occur so fast that most people cannot see or recognize them in real time. The idea that microexpressions exist has its roots in Darwin’s (1872) inhibition hypothesis that suggested that facial actions that cannot be controlled voluntarily may be produced involuntarily even if the individual is trying to control his or her expressions. Research on the neuroanatomical bases of emotional expressions suggests how this occurs. There are two neural pathways that mediate facial expressions, each originating in a different area of the brain (Rinn, 1984). The pyramidal tract drives voluntary facial actions and originates in the cortical motor strip, whereas the extrapyramidal tract drives involuntary emotional expressions and originates in subcortical areas of the brain. When individuals are in intensely emotional situations but need to control their expressions they activate both systems, which engage in a neural “tug of war” over control of the face, allowing for the quick, fleeting leakage of microexpressions.


Students recognize how teachers feel about them by observing these Micro facial expressions. They see them and recognize them without any micro facial training. It is subconsciously obvious.

It has been said that students do care how much you know, they want to know how much you care. Your facial expressions both Macro and micro tell them how much you care. When they recognize that you do NOT care, your effectiveness as a teacher is greatly diminished.  ( teachers whose paradigm is “I got mine now you get yours” (referring to education are often less effective)

If you really care about all your students and if you want to be the most effective teacher you can be, I have an action step for you. Video tape yourself teaching. Try to forget the camera is there. Examine the video. Your will be surprised at your own facial expressions. Make a conscious effort to change how you feel about your students. You CANNOT change your micro facial expressions unless you first change how you feel. I am asking for a paradigm shift.  If you find yourself saying “those kids to not care about learning” It should be OUR kids do not seem to care about learning.

The solution is from a song I was heard, “wake up all you teachers, got to teach a new way”.

I do not believe teaching is a job or even a career. I believe teaching is a religious calling. As a teacher I could not get tired, get discouraged, or let the administrator or the system or the board of education procedures dampen my enthusiasm. I was , from the movie, the BLUES BROTHERS ”on a mission from GOD”




Portions of this report were prepared with the support of research grant W91WAW-08-C-0024 from the Army Research Institute, and FA9550-09-1-0281 from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to the first author.





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