A recent article, drawing on psychological research on facial cues, has argued that people with neutral resting facial expressions may actually be better communicators.

Psychologist Albert Mehrabian conducted research in the 1960s which found that communication is based mostly on non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and body language, rather than the content of the communication telling the whole story. Logically, people who therefore do not have strong non-verbal communication skills may be seen to be lacking in communication skills overall.

Rene Paulson, a senior statistician of a social research company, instead argues that this may lead to enhanced verbal communication skills due to a deficiency in non-verbal communication skills. Ms Paulson uses the example of a neutral resting face, which is often seen read as a sign of disdain and disapproval. Psychology applicants should investigate why neutral is read as negative when it comes to facial cues whilst happy expressions are seen as neutral to positive.

The neutral resting face, argues Ms Paulson, is so frequently misinterpreted that it causes people to enhance the clarity of their verbal communication to ensure they are understood. Humans have a tendency to tailor their communication to their audience, and thus positive and receptive facial cues allow people to feel confident in continuing their manner of verbal communication. In the absence of these ‘encouraging’ cues, however, Ms Paulson argues that people are more reflective and critical of their own speech. This ongoing self-reflection allows people to “hone a finely-tuned awareness of both our own emotions and those of the emotions around us.”

HSPS applicants should consider how the assignation of a negative expression is given to women more than to men, and how this relates to expectations on women’s comportment and emotional state. 

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