Friday, January 11, 2013

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2264:
Kate Middleton's First Portrait as Duchess of Cambridge
Captures Body Language of
Contempt, Disapproval and Fatigue

Kate Middleton's first portrait as The Duchess of Cambridge's was unveiled today. The artist is Paul Emsley. He is quoted as wanting to capture Kate's "charm, sincerity and intelligence". To seize the essence of the human face is perhaps the most difficult thing to paint. Accurately capturing one or several emotions is particularly difficult. 

One absolute here is if Emsley or any other artist wants to convey sincerity they should absolutely never paint, photograph, draw or sculpt an asymmetrical mouth smile

While there are some people who routinely have asymmetrical mouth smiles - and thus for them their friends/acquaintances, etc. consider this a "normal" nonvebal - baring any true underlying structural asymmetry of the face, injury, stroke, facial palsy, etc. - such "smiles" are rarely sincere. There are exceptions though. 

One consideration when seeing an asymmetrical smile is a true (Duchenne) sincere smile which is just forming. If it is imaged, captured in a momentary glance or painted as such - this "blooming" smile is one explanation of a sincere but asymmetric smile.

Another possibility is a smile which is being suppressed. If for some reason - such as etiquette, embarrassment, etc. - a person does not want to fully smile (which often occurs at the edge-of-consciousness) the smile may be asymmetric.  

The vast majority of the time though, when a one-side "smile" (false smile) is seen the explanation is either insincerity or worse - that of contempt

Even though Emsley is an accomplished artist, this is of course a painting and not a photograph. Note that the right side of Kate's mouth is pulled more laterally (towards her ear) rather than upwards. This is particularly easy to discern when looking at her upper cheeks (There is also significant asymmetry in Kate's cheek as well with her left cheek appearing larger, even swollen - but not pulled upwards. This is possibly due to the lighting). In a true, Duchenne smile the upper cheeks contract, and bunch-up against the lower eyelids. When a smile is sincere, within the lower lids there always appears a highly characteristically concave-up, dynamic furrow. This body language-facial expression is absolutely required for a smile to be sincere. While Kate's upper eyelids are partially closed - which is also required with a true, felt, sincere smile - her lower lids do not have this necessary dynamic appearing furrow (thus not consistent with muscle contraction) - rather they are "puffy", baggy and loose. The skin crease is passive and not anatomically correct with that of a true smile. This makes her eyes look tired or even sick or post-crying - but not smiling.

Kate's mid-face is tighter on her right side, and her nose is painted in a manner that if this were a live version of Kate, although viewed straight on, her right nostril is flared. This nonverbal is strongly consistent with contempt.

There is a trace of a pursed lip here as well. Lip pursing conveys disagreement and which is often not fully (or not at all) expressed verbally. If disagreement is voiced, it is usually done so in a partial fashion, holding the majority of one's opinion in reserve. Moreover, lip pursing is usually seen in one who perceives they have the upper hand. It is one of many nonverbals which signal that they believe that they are a  relative alpha. 

Emsley wanted to convey sincerity. He was far off the mark. In short, while the Duchess of Cambridge's eyes appear tired (or signify illness or subtle sadness), the emotions which are best nonverbally captured here are that of subtle contempt and disapproval

This is of course not to suggest that Kate is a contemptuous or disagreeable person. I for one do not think so. The painting is however rendered with the body language of contempt and disapproval.

See also:

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 353: Brad Pitt's Smiling Eyes -  Sincere and Insincere Smiles

Nonverbal Communication Secret # 2091: Sincere Smiling (a la' Blake Lively) and Laughing - Reduces Anxiety and Heart Rate, Boosts Immune System and Relieves Pain

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2058: DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's "False Contempt" The Importance of "Norming"

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 457: Salman Rushdie's Contempt Amplifier

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1905: Ann Curry's Smile and Sincerity Quotient

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2093: Ann Curry's Tearful Goodbye - Matt Lauer's Classic "Tongue-in-Cheek" and Duplicitous Smile

Dating & Romance Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1010: What Makes the Twinkle in Rashida Jones' Eye?