In a 2011 study for Social Psychological & Personality Science Journal, test subjects were asked to view a series of faces and then describe what emotion they saw in each face. The idea was to test their ability to imagine what another human is feeling – the characteristic we call empathy.
Although results naturally varied from person to person, most people showed good skill at correctly identifying the facial expression they saw.
The interesting part came when analyzing the video recording of each user test. High-speed cameras revealed that, before answering, each test user momentarily copied the expression they saw in the photo. These so-called ‘microexpressions‘ were completely involuntary, unconscious and often barely perceptible to the naked eye, but seemed to help the subject make sense what they were seeing. The obvious question: what would happen if we blocked these microexpressions?