They say eyes may be the window to the soul...but you're better off using the doors. Body cues, not facial expressions, are the most accurate indicators of intense emotions, according to a new Princeton University study.
Researchers showed three groups of people photos of professional tennis players experiencing peak emotions--either victory or defeat. The groups that were shown photos of only the body or both the body and the face were significantly more likely to correctly identify the emotion as the group shown only the face.
But wouldn't a wide grin or big scowl be easy tells? "It appears that highly intense positive and negative facial expressions, instead of being more clear and distinct, actually become more similar," says study author Hillel Aviezer, Ph.D.
Even though looking at just the face didn't prove very successful, most people believe that's the biggest piece of the puzzle--a misguided belief the researchers refer to as the "illusory facial affect." In fact, when they asked another set of participants what would be most helpful in correctly identifying emotion, 80 percent chose the face alone, 20 percent chose the face and the body, and none picked just the body.Read:She Dumped Me – 5 Things Not To Do Now
So how can you use body language to figure someone out? Use these tips from non-verbal behavior expert Marc Salem, Ph.D., to decipher a few important tells you may miss--or misread--every day.
Your boss is getting bored
Be on the lookout for the "microshrug," says Salem. This almost imperceptible, casual movement occurs when the shoulders raise up only slightly, without the full range of motion as an actual shrug. According to Salem, the microshrug can connote disinterest, or it can be dismissive. But keep your eyes peeled for it--it occurs in only a fraction of a second.
'Your girlfriend is spitting fire
If she's leaning in toward you, it doesn't necessarily mean she wants to get extra friendly--in fact, she might be flat-out furious. In the U.S., invading someone's personal space shows you're not respecting boundaries, and it's often a sign of anger. How close are we talking? Roughly 2 to 7 inches away from you--"in your face, so to speak," says Salem.
Need another sign that says she's furious, not frisky? Check out her flush. If she's red with rage, it'll usually be a darker, deeper hue that comes on quickly. An excitable flush, on the other hand, "is a slowly emerging, more gradual, lighter red," says Salem.
The bar babe likes what she sees