A book of lessons for decoding people’s facial expressions, using celebrities as examples.
In 1998, the San Diego Chargers made one of the worst draft picks in NFL history, signing Washington State University quarterback Ryan Leaf to a $31 million contract before he promptly flamed out. For Hill (Emotionomics, 2010, etc.), the Chargers’ expensive mistake is a cautionary tale of how easy it is to miss telling, external clues about someone’s state of mind if one doesn’t know to look for them. In this smart, entertaining book, he explains how one can spot seven core emotions on people’s faces—happiness, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, surprise, and sadness—and the subtle variations of each. This, he says, will help readers “gain the inside track on understanding the true, emotional reactions of people” and thus improve their personal and professional relationships. Hill is a facial-coding expert who’s worked as a corporate consultant and has been featured on CNN and MSNBC. Here, he analyzes the facial expressions of 173 celebrities with the aim of teasing out their core emotions. He explains the different shades of each, using clear examples. Unfortunately, the “Famous Faces” of the title aren’t shown in photos; instead, a model demonstrates key expressions. Readers must look elsewhere, for example, to see Magic Johnson’s 1991 announcement that he is HIV positive (which Hill cites as an example of surprise and fear) or Tom Cruise’s 2005 interview with Matt Lauer, which the author says puts Cruise’s contempt clearly on display. However, the book’s lively tone somewhat makes up for the lack of celebrity images. There is some armchair psychologizing, as when Hill suggests that Natalie Portman’s expression, which he interprets as fearful, could be blamed on her “demanding parents” or that President Donald Trump’s alleged underlying sadness could be traced back to his “relationship with his dad.” But the author also wisely reminds readers that people are complex creatures and that facial coding is just one tool for better understanding them.
A fun, informative book for readers interested in better reading people.