The micro expression of surprise is one of the seven universal emotions. In addition, surprise is one of the easier micro expressions to spot. Director of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory at San Francisco State University David Matsumoto adds, “Surprise is expressed by a raising of the brows and the upper eyelids and a dropping of the jaw, thus the surprise expression is open and round as compared to fear, which is horizontal and tense, despite sharing some similarities with surprise.” In both surprise and fear, it is not uncommon to see the whites of the eyes, but again the main difference is in the jaw as Matsumoto suggests. We see people show surprise when we throw a surprise birthday party or when their favorite baseball team fails to make the playoffs (Yep, I’m a Yankee fan and they failed to make the playoffs for the only the second time in the last nineteen years! My surprise has quickly become anger).
Keep in mind, that when someone is genuinely surprised the surprise expression changes within 3-4 seconds; because, that person cannot keep being surprised by the same action or stimuli once it’s seen. Surprise gives way to another emotions quickly such as fear or joy. So, if you throw your special someone a surprise party and they hold an expression of surprise indeﬁnitely guess what: they knew it was coming.
Recently, I along with my colleague and mentor, Janine Driver, and others were quoted in an ABC News Story by Gillian Mohney. In “Why Surprise looks the Same in Every Country,” we talked about surprise and other body language actions people take and how those actions are perceived. I have included a link to the story below. Surprise!