Learning How to Read Emotions for People with ASD: The Emotion of Displeasure

Heather is not pleased with the TV ad she’s watching and we can tell this by the combination of two subtle signs. First, there is a slight lowering of her brow. We tend to associate this with being puzzled, but it’s also a general negative sign. When the brow is lowered the eyes become more narrow. When we narrow our eyes we are going into a defensive mode. The opposite of this would be when we are relaxed and the eyes open wide to the world around us.

When we are feeling positive our mouths are also relaxed and slightly open. Heather’s mouth is tight shut, as she presses her lips together. If we think back to our distant ancestors, we can understand how narrowed eyes and a closed mouth are physical responses to threat; preparations for fight or flight.

Heather also stretches her lips, playing with her mouth as she experiences a negative response.

Finally, look out for her blink, closely followed by the slightest of nervous twitches under her right eye.

Signs to note

  • lowers her eyebrows
  • presses her lips together
  • her right eye twitches slightly
  • stretches her mouth

by Dr. John Habershon

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Dr John Habershon has spent many hundreds of hours conducting in-depth interviews during his career in consumer and social research. Over the last eight years he has analysed the nonverbal responses captured on video on a wide range of topics, ranging from favorite products and advertising on TV, to bereavement and stress at work. He became involved in work for those on the autism spectrum through friends with Asperger's in the family and has created Emotions Reader, (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/readingemotionssystem) an interactive program with quizzes to help users identify facial expressions. John has a long standing interest in understanding emotions, having gained his PhD on the psychological effects of unemployment at Imperial College, London University. He has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. http://www.momentumresearch.co.uk/

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