How to read the emotion of fear through facial expressions

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Reading facial expressions: Introduction

This article is part 3 of the series Reading emotions through facial expressions. In the previous articles i gave an introduction about reading facial expressions then i explained how you can recognize anger and sadness in their early stages through someone's face.

Today i am going to talk about fear and how you can recognize a person who felt slightly afraid because of something that you said or because of something that happened.

Then reason i used the word "slightly" is that intense fear can usually be recognized by most people. After all if you saw a terrified face you won't need help knowing that it belongs to a person who is feeling afraid. (see also How to be brave in life)

How to read the emotion of fear through facial expressions

As usual you have to begin by seeing a picture of a face experiencing a very intense emotion and a normal face. The fist image below (the one on the left) shows a normal face while the one on the right shows a face experiencing intense fear.

Now in order to understand how to read early signs of fear you need to see the stages this person went through before her face changed from the normal one to the fearful one.

So what are the signs that show that pictures 3 and 4 belong to a person who is feeling afraid?

  • 1) Raised upper lids: If you compared picture 3 with picture 1 you will realize that the upper lids of the person went up a little, this is a common sign of fear
  • 2) Tensed lower lids: By comparing the same pictures you will notice that the lower lids became tensed as well and this is another popular indicator of fear
  • 3) Eyebrows changed their shape: In picture 3 the eyebrows look different than in picture one. This is another sign of fear
  • 4) Lips widened: In picture 2 you can also notice that the lips widened a bit. This sign can also start to happen gradually and can be noticed before it gets that intense. (not shown in pictures 3 or 4)

Surprise vs fear

The state of Surprise is very close to the state of fear when it comes to facial signs but the major difference between them is that in the state of surprise the lower jaw drops while the eyebrows are raised.

In the next article in this series i will talk about the state of being surprised and show you how to differentiate between it and the state of fear.

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