Facial expressions: Fear

Eyebrows

In fear, the eyebrows are raised and drawn together producing wrinkles on the forehead. The wrinkles appear on the area between and just above the eyebrows.

Eyes

The upper eyelids are raised as high as possible, opening the eyes to the maximum. This maximum opening of the eyes is necessary because when we are afraid we need to assess the threatening situation fully so that we may choose the best possible course of action. When the eyes are opened to the maximum, more light can enter the eyes and we can see and assess the situation more effectively.


Lips

Lips are stretched horizontally towards the ears. The mouth may or may not be open but the lip stretch is always there. The more intense the fear, the more will be the lip stretch.

Chin

Chin may be pulled back, a common gesture observed when a person feels threatened.

Examples of the fear expression

woman producing the fear expression
Eyebrows are raised and drawn together producing wrinkles on the forehead; eyes have been opened to the maximum, with upper eyelids raised as high as possible; lips are stretched horizontally towards the ears; chin has been pulled slightly backward as is evident by the horizontal wrinkles on the neck. 

woman with a fear expression

Eyebrows are raised and drawn together producing wrinkles on the forehead; eyes have been opened to the maximum, with upper eyelids raised as high as possible; lips are very slightly stretched.


Surprise

While fear is triggered by any external information that we interpret as potentially harmful, surprise is triggered by a sudden, unexpected event, regardless of its potential to harm us. Surprises can pleasant too, unlike fear. The facial expressions of fear and surprise are very similar and therefore cause great confusion. In fact, most people can easily differentiate between other facial expressions but when it to comes to the facial expressions of fear and surprise, they often confuse one with the other.

However, there’s a subtle difference between the fear and the surprise expression. In surprise as in fear, the eyebrows are raised and the eyes are opened to the maximum. But in surprise, the eyebrows are not drawn together as in fear. In some people, horizontal wrinkles may be seen on the forehead produced by the raising of the brows but these are different from the fear wrinkles that are produced when the eyebrows are raised as well as drawn together.

Another distinguishing factor between the fear and surprise expressions is that in surprise the jaw usually drops down, opening the mouth and the lips are not stretched horizontally as they are in fear. An opened mouth is sometimes covered by one or both the hands in surprise.

man showing surprised expression

Eyebrows are raised but not drawn together (horizontal wrinkles are seen on the forehead, produced only by the raising of the brows); upper eyelids are raised as high as possible, opening the eyes to the maximum; the mouth is opened but not stretched. 
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