What Does your Face Say?


Prof (Dr) Shalini Verma, in her book Face Express says, “Spoken Words and Facial Expressions are in a Constant Battle – One Hides as the Other Reveals”.

Face Express, is also a new boarding procedure that utilizes NEC’s face recognition system, is now in operation at Narita International Airport in Japan. Once passengers register their facial image in Face Express, they will be able to access and proceed through subsequent procedures at the airport, including checking in baggage, entering the security checkpoint, and boarding the plane, all without showing their passport and boarding pass. This will enable seamless and contactless check-in procedures.

Face Express is a Japanese version of One ID

With the increase in global air travel, the airline industry has been challenged by congestion that impedes a smooth and reliable entry and exit process and a pleasant travel experience for passengers. In order to improve this situation, IATA (International Air Transport Association) established a working group to study improvements under the keyword “FAST TRAVEL”. One of the key solutions focused on was the One ID Passenger Process ― a new concept that emphasizes the use of biometric technology including face recognition to streamline boarding and immigration procedures. Face Express is a Japanese version of One ID developed in order to bring the One ID concept to fruition in Japan. The first Face Express system in Japan was built by NEC at Narita Airport.

Does Our Face Display Our Emotions?

However, my objective here is to understand do our face say anything. I’ve often heard people saying, – “Our face says it all – good, bad and ugly”. Day in and day out, we come across so many faces – some known some unknown, some friendly some unfriendly, some happy some unhappy, some honest some dishonest. Having spent a little over quarter of a century as a keen observer of non-verbal cues that get emitted by individuals, in most cases unknowingly, I’ve seen bosses struggling to hide their displeasure behind the veil of a smile, interviewees trying to weather a stressful interview, and politicians making tall and ‘nearly-impossible-to-fulfil’ promises in their election campaigns.

Further, Dr Verma, in her book Face Express says, “However, not making any tall promises to readers, I can only say this book is worth your time and endeavours of reading the ‘book’ called ‘face’, which might have innocence or intolerance, beliefs or betrayals, truths or treacheries. As Shakespeare rightly wrote in Hamlet – “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.

There is no exaggeration in the statement that “the face of a person is a window to their soul”.

And it is quite possible to ‘see through’ this window if you have a keen eye to ‘read’ one’s face and the emotions it communicates. For instance, a mother might scold a child but her benign face tells the child that she really doesn’t mean to be tough. A teenager might gush about his girlfriend’s beauty but his overdone face reveals he is only being flirtatious, not sincere.

At a public forum, two political opponents might make polite a conversation, but their frosty faces reveal their mutual animosity. In fact, our face is the mirror external of our internal emotions. Its complex nature makes the study of facial expressions one of the most confusing areas in the study of psychology. Emotions, in simple words, are what we feel internally – anger, disgust, joy, grief, excitement, fear, contempt, etc.

Even to the person who experiences them, emotions are often confusing, especially when several of these are felt at the same time. This inner confusion is also reflected in the person’s choice of words when they try to put their point across through the spoken language. For example, how many of us can accurately differentiate between guilt and shame, envy and jealousy and anxiety and fear? We experience these emotions quite frequently in our personal and professional lives, but it is hard for us to put a finger on one name that describes them.

Emotions have a long evolutionary history — from an adaptation to our surroundings to masking of our real thoughts (nervousness and anxiety level) in the modern-day multi-step job selection process. They play an important role in our survival and involve both our cognitive ability and behavioural patterns. For instance, if we were approached by a snake, our cognitive ability would recognise it as danger. This in turn would instil a feeling of fear in us. This emotion of fear would further activate the ‘fight-or-flight’ response in our behavioural pattern. As a result, we would either attempt to escape the situation (flight response) or strive to eliminate the enemy that caused the situation (fight response) — in this case the snake. Both of these are goal-directed behavioural patterns. Because emotions are caused by a complex combination of our hormones and our unconscious minds, only with great conscious efforts can we control or, more appropriately, mask them.

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