This Blue Angels "Sneak Pass" reaction at the Chicago Air and Water Show, although very brief, examples some fantastic displays of body language. What follows is a partial analysis.
Note the woman with the aqua colored jacket over her right shoulder just as the F-18 Hornet surprises the crowd by flying from behind only 80-90 feet over the beach.
Although the resolution is a bit low in this motion-captured image, we can see that her eyelids and her mouth are opened very wide. More specifically, her mouth is opened in a vertically-oriented oval shape - with no teeth visible.
In this second image, her mouth is opened even more widely - still in a vertically-stretched oval shape - and still with no teeth visible.
She then covers her mouth with her hands and her jacket as she momentarily also closes her eyes.
Now contrast her body language with the shirtless man to the right of the image. The entire time he has his hands on his hips in a finger's forward, arms-akimbo configuration (high alpha).
The woman discussed here is experiencing surprise. Surprise is the shortest-lived of any emotion (startling is not an emotion, but a reflex) - lasting only two-three seconds and then replaced with another emotion (in this case joy-wonder).
The mouth of sincere surprise is opened in a vertically-stretched oval shape with no teeth showing - exactly as we see here. When surprise is being feigned (as it often is), the teeth are invariably showing and the mouth is stretched horizontally.
When something incredibly surprising, unbelievably wonderful, or suddenly tragic - with high frequency a substantial percentage of people will cover portions of their faces (typically their mouths and/or cheeks) with their hands. This nonverbal act tells us two important things:
1. In that moment, although the person's intellectual brain knows what's transpired - their emotional brain is still trying to process the events and ramifications ("Emotionally Processing").
2. The people who consistently display this sudden hand-to-face covering during such events possess over-all empathy quotients and sincerity quotients which tend to be significantly higher than those who don't have this reaction under similar conditions. This observation allows much more accurate prediction of their behavior in other scenarios.
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