Microexpression is a brief facial expression according to emotions experienced. It is also one of the most powerful SE (social engineering) weapons. However, they are very hard to master.

Are they any exercises, techniques, training, or methods that help you learn how to genuinely mimic emotions with your facial expressions?

Any information on how to learn and improve this art is most welcome.

  • 2
    This doesn't seem related to social engineering in the IT security sense; it's basic conman fare. Aug 15, 2012 at 19:11
  • @MikeSamuel - You didn't hear about Kevin Mitnick, Christopher Hadnagy, Paul Wilson, David Bannon, Farnk Abagnale, etc.? This is as much basic common knowledge as protecting infrastructure from malware.
    – StupidOne
    Aug 16, 2012 at 7:14
  • 1
    That some famous crackers are conmen and use conmen tricks does not make it relevant to IT security. There are many crackers who have mustaches, but mustache grooming is not on-topic here. Aug 16, 2012 at 8:13
  • @MikeSamuel Please take a look at this question to get grasp what SE really is. Also, SE: The art of human hacking is great starting point and it gives link between microexpressions and IT security.
    – StupidOne
    Aug 16, 2012 at 8:26
  • 1
    That some questions about Social-Engineering are related to IT security does not establish that all are. Please explain why this question is on-topic. Aug 16, 2012 at 8:44

2 Answers 2


The single best way to begin in this area is to raise your awareness of others:

When conducting social engineering attacks, being very aware of this is part of understanding your target's reactions. Courses in social awareness, knowing your target, Neurolinguistic Programming and even sales training all build in elements of this, but it all comes down to practice and time - you can only get so far with theory.

Once you gain an awareness of what to look for, you will be able to look in a mirror to see what your face does.

And, disappointingly, you are likely to find at first that your microexpressions aren't controllable at all!

A suggested way to progress is to try and imagine basic emotions (like joy, sadness, terror etc) and seeing how they affect your expression. See what happens when you hear something sad but are thinking about something happy - that disconnect is what can happen when you are confronted by a target - your conscious mind is concentrating on not getting caught, which is different to the response of someone authorised to be there. So try and become adept at imagining and feeling the emotions of whatever character you should be.

Associated with this, being relaxed about the scenario should also reduce the magnitude of microexpressions, which makes them harder to pick up. Again, this will come with practice. I still find social engineering to be a challenge, as I'm often thinking about possible outcomes of any confrontation, rather than just going with the flow, knowing the scenario inside and out.

tl;dr - practice, be relaxed, gain familiarity with the scenario, and practice


I think the honest answer is embedded in your question - though this would not really help a typical conman, such as those you mentioned in your comment:

how to genuinely mimic emotions

Well, if you're mimicing, it's not genuine, is it?
But if you are genuine in your interactions - e.g. if you're wanting to express sadness, this would work best if you are sad. If you want to show pleasure, enjoy whatever it is you're doing.
There will be less conflict for your mind to juggle, and if it's genuine you don't have to mimic anything.

Now, even if you are honest, you might still not be believed, partly because as an anti-social geek you're not used to regular human conventions - the answer to that part is to force yourself to overplay those emotions (if you naturally don't show them). If it helps you can consider this a "social convention" required to communicate using human protocols.

Yes, I know this is not much of an answer, if you're trying to con someone (whatever your intentions, good, bad, or testing), but I much prefer honesty, even when you're lying.

  • This was my first thought too. "genuinely mimic" is an oxymoron.
    – Polynomial
    Aug 17, 2012 at 15:28

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