The 1% Podcast

Dan Hill


  • 01

    Dan Hill

    Unlocking the Secrets of Facial Expression


My guest today is Dan Hill.


Dr Dan Hill an internationally recognised facial coding expert and author of 5 books on the topic, who unlocks emotional attributes through face reading and has gained performance and communication insights for professional sports bodies in addition to corporate organisations through his consultancy Sensory Logic.


Some of the work he is best know for is his extensive and fascinating study into the facial expressions of public figures such as politicians (particularly US presidents), celebrities and even paintings. In this week’s edition of The 1% Podcast we get into detail on facial expression and body language in our personal lives, in the workplace and in public life, discuss the recent US Presidential Inauguration and Dan’s views on Donald Trump and Joe Biden, and other intriguing topics like how to spot a liar.


It’s an engaging discussion filled with Dan’s unique insights into human behaviour as well as tips on how we can all learn to use facial decoding to help to understand the people around us better



Show Summary


3:09 The impact of moving from North Dakota to a little Italian fishing village as a child

  • Learning to read body language
  • Testing comfort zone
  • Being an ‘outsider’


4:56 His experience of seeing the paintings of Rembrandt for the first time

  • Impacted by also visiting the Dachau concentration camp and the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam
  • Visiting the Rijksmuseum
  • His mother’s artistic background
  • Drawn to the personalities in the paintings


10:21 Transitioning into his career of facial decoding

  • Being a Norweigen American
  • Ghost writing a book for a president of a consulting firm
  • Reading an article about how we are “intuitive emotional decision-makers”
  • The business world needed to know about this neuroscience
  • Charles Darwin on how our faces best communicate our emotions


15:25 Using facial decoding in sport

  • Working with the US Olympic diving team
  • Correlation between smiling and poor performance
  • The power of a muted form of anger
  • Identifying personalities in tennis


19:34 The role of emotions in sport

  • Explore emotional compatibility within a team
  • Do more individual work if the individual has high levels of anxiety
  • Facially decoding during penalty shoot outs
  • Coaches will benefit from knowing how to facially decode


23:08 How facial coding reveals a person’s character

  • Research by Paul Ekman, the modern Charles Darwin: there are 23 expressions in the face that reveal 7 emotions
  • “Every emotion has a positive and negative side to it”


26:32 Why humans take more from sensory than verbal signals

  • We have ancient brains
  • We are visually-oriented
  • Living in a very visual age, e.g. Netflix, social media.
  • The business world focuses more on words


29:00 How to determine if somebody is trustworthy or not

  • There’s no signal in the face that indicates trust
  • Five of the emotions in the face are negative
  • The absence of trust is contempt
  • Look out for happiness and positive consistency


32:41 Anticipation can’t be facially decoded

  • Robert Pulchik’s Colour Wheel of Emotions
  • “Anticipation is theoretical – nothing has happened yet”
  • Constructive energy from anger


34:52 Genuine vs artificial emotions

  • Sadness and fear are the most genuine emotions
  • Happiness is easy to be artificial, e.g. in advertising
  • Look out for the ‘rhythm’ of the smile
  • Using emotions to indicate engagement


39:14 How to spot a liar

  • We most often lie to ourselves, to feel good about ourselves and to create allies
  • ‘Of Truth’ essay by Francis Bacon
  • Analysing Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal
  • Lance Armstrong used anger to lie about doping
  • The key is to look out for patterns


43:43 Reading people’s faces when they’ve convinced themselves about something

  • Self-righteousness is a key motivator – “Better to be the duke than the fool”
  • Reading Lance Armstrong’s facial expressions in the Oprah interview


47:01 How can body language help enhance our understanding of someone’s facial expressions?

  • Much less categories of body language, as opposed to facial expressions
  • Cultural differences
  • Body language is easier to manipulate than facial expressions
  • Observing presidential debates


49:08 ‘Thin slicing’ concept in psychology

  • George Orwell: “At 50, everyone has the face he deserves”
  • We all have signature expressions
  • Pain vs pleasure


55:26 Can we trust Joe Biden from his recent inauguration speech?

  • He is fundamentally different to Trump
  • A straightforward character with a ‘true’ smile
  • Consider his fortitude and resolution
  • Think about the emotions that aren’t there, e.g. anxiety or disgust


1:00:48 His observations of Trump’s characteristics

  • Like Nixon, Trump was very isolated. For Trump, it was his ego that isolated him.
  • Consider Trump’s childhood which had very little Mother-Son time together
  • The rising of the chin indicates disgust, aka Action Unit 17, which is anger, disgust and sadness


1:07:33 What attracts people to Trump?

  • He’s a good marketer, learnt from Roy Cohn
  • His messaging is simple, which creates a broader net of supporters
  • Use of superlative language and repetition
  • Likeness to a successful propagandist
  • Fox News formula of fear and anger


1:12:51 How Barack Obama’s face changed over the course of his presidency

  • The joyful face with authentic smile when he won 
  • By the time he left, “rubbery” lower face from the anger and disgust built in him


1:15:15 The emotions we’re bad at spotting in others

  • Fear and contempt
  • Analysing Natalie Portman and Frank Sinatra
  • “Emotions are contagious, we almost don’t want to see fear in others, because we’re more fearful than we’d like to imagine”
  • Lack of emotional literacy


1:19:45 The role of contempt

  • Very attitudinal emotion
  • Anger and contempt is scorn, like in Prince and Bill Gates in the early days
  • Contempt is often combined with happiness


1:23:18 How to start developing your emotional EQ

  • As a business leader, you’re the public face of the company
  • “People don’t dance to the words, they dance to the music”


1:28:14 Having an emotional goal

  • “We’re all in sales”
  • Identify what emotions you need to succeed at your role
  • Risks happen when we say too much
  • Focus on building the connection, not on the fear
  • Pride is a combination of anger and happiness


1:33:43 Analysing Mona Lisa’s face

  • The tepid, sneering smile
  • Mona Lisa had a social standing, whilst Da Vinci did not
  • Anger in the left eye
  • Its fame is partly due to the location, and the press it received after being stolen in 1911 which increased its value


1:39:14 Teaching children facial coding from a young age

  • Through art and photography
  • From law to consultancy, it’s needed in any line of work


1:41:29 Is it possible for someone to not show any emotion?

  • Psychopaths still show emotion – just inappropriate emotion
  • Lack of emotion means it doesn’t matter to the person


1:44:39 How can we master fear?

  • “Relaxed muscles travel faster than tight muscles”
  • Envision a successful outcome


1:47:10 The future of facial recognition in technology

  • The danger when in the wrong hands
  • The technology now has up to 95% accuracy of a person
  • Facial coding in China
  • Face crime in George Orwell’s 1984


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