Facial expressions: Anger

Eyebrows

Eyebrows are lowered and drawn together such that they form a ‘V’ over the nose. This lowering and drawing together of the eyebrows forms wrinkles on the forehead, just above the nose and the eyebrows.

Eyes

The eyes are usually narrowed to produce an intense stare. Staring eyes are indicated by raised upper eyelids. The lower eyelids may also be slightly raised or tensed in order to produce the focusing eye movement.

Nose

Wrinkles may be seen on the nose due to the flaring of the nostrils. Nostril flaring allows more air to enter the lungs so that more blood is oxygenated and more energy is produced to carry out the strong assertive action that anger usually demands.


Lips

Lips may either be closed or open. When closed, lips are usually pressed together so that wrinkles appear on them. This also makes the lips appear thinner than their normal size. When open, the lips usually form a square or a rectangular shape whilst exposing the teeth, our most primitive weapons. Exposing the teeth allows a person to threaten his source of anger and often precedes shouting or screaming, an extreme sign of anger.

Jaws

Lower jaw may be thrust forward in the anger expression. Also, the jaws may be clenched for a brief moment producing a transient depression on the cheeks. It’s almost as if by clenching the jaws and pressing the teeth together, the person is symbolically ‘biting’ his source of anger.

If you see all or most of these expressions, you can be sure that the person is feeling angry. If you see only a single or a couple of these signs than anger may be in its initial weaker stage or the person may be trying to suppress his anger.


Some important points to consider

If the eyebrows are lowered and drawn together without the staring eyes i.e. without raising the upper eyelids, then this expression does not indicate anger. Raised upper eyelids are a must for the anger expression because when we are angry we stare at our source of anger intensely to threaten it. And intense staring is not possible without raising the upper eyelids.

Lowering and drawing together the brows without raising the upper eyelids means the person is in some sort of a difficulty but is not angry. In fact, the muscle that produces this expression is known as the ‘muscle of difficulty’. Any type of physical or mental difficulty can trigger this expression.

For example, this expression may be seen in a person who is lifting a heavy weight or looking at a bright light (physical difficulty) or in someone who is confused, concentrating on something, feeling determined or even disgusted (mental difficulty).

Pressing the lips together is a part of the facial expression of anger because we press our lips together when we are engaged in any strong physical or mental exertion. Often anger prepares us to take a strong action ergo pressing of the lips. But if other signs of the anger expression are not present, then thinning the lips by pressing them may convey some other sort of physical or mental exertion.

For example, lifting a heavy weight, feeling determined, etc. as mentioned above.

Interestingly, people tend to evaluate those with naturally thin lips as short-tempered and hostile. Because in anger the lips become thinner we mistakenly think, at a subconscious level, that the person who has thin lips is angry at us!
Examples of the anger expression
angry boy
Eyebrows lowered and drawn together forming a ‘V’ above the nose; raised upper and lower eyelids (notice how tense the lower eyelids are); nostril flaring and wrinkles on the nose, lips thinned by pressing them together (notice the wrinkles on the lips); lower jaw thrust forward.

angry lady

Eyebrows lowered and drawn together forming a ‘V’; raised upper eyelids and slightly raised lower eyelids; lips open exposing the teeth; jaws are probably clenched because the teeth are pressed together and a depression is visible on her left cheek

extremely angry man

Shit has hit the fan here. The man is showing extreme anger, doing everything he can to threaten the source of his anger.

Eyebrows are lowered and drawn together forming a ‘V’; upper eyelids are so intensely raised that it’s hard to notice that the eyebrows have been lowered and drawn together; lower eyelids are also raised intensely, nostril flaring is extreme pushing the wrinkled nose to the sky; mouth is open and teeth dangerously exposed (he might be screaming). 

Though not a facial expression, notice how the man brandishes his fingers as if they were claws, which they probably were somewhere down the line in the evolutionary history of homo sapiens.
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