Paul Allen is the co-founder of Microsoft, the 45th wealthiest person in the World - and the owner of the Portland Trailblazers - yet in this post, we're interested in this nonverbal viral meme (see below) as his reaction to Steph Curry's 4th quarter superman performance. Curry set an NBA record of 17 overtime points in Golden State Warriors victory last night. They lead the series, 3-1.
Today Curry became the only player in NBA history to unanimously win the season's MVP.
Allen's expression here is often confused with the emotion of surprise by nonverbal novices. And although it shares some commonalities with surprise, it's not the equivalent. The key to this distinction is the configuration of Allen's jaw. Note how it's partially opened - but not wide (as with surprise). The colloquial term for this jaw position is "Slack Jawed" or "Mouth Agape". The muscles which open the mouth (masseter, temporalis and internal pterygoid) are relaxed - and the mandible (jaw) just hangs there. It's profoundly important that when this emotion is sincere (e.g., not being feigned) - no teeth are visible.
Notice that his eyelids are also more opened than baseline - but not very widely (versus the eyes of significant surprise). His gaze is fixed at mid-distance - and although that's where Curry and his basketball are, this is another key component of this highly characteristic expression.
Allen's face is that of emotional shock/emotional processing - not surprise. It signals to us that the intellect knows what is happening - but the emotional brain can't (yet) process what's occurring.
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