Season 2 Episode 20: Exposed

Mistaken Expression

Foster shows Loker and Torres a photograph of Burns that Lightman had taken. Torres says its fear. We only see it briefly but for those in the TV audience who record the programs and might freeze frame the expression to check on Torres, I had better point out that Torres got it wrong. It is a minor matter, but in the past if I don’t point out a minor error in interpreting facial expressions or other behaviors, I am deluged with complaining emails.

Burns’ facial expression is not fear but perplexity, concentration, or determination. The signal is the furrowing of his brows. Darwin called the muscle that generates this appearance the muscle of difficulty. It is activated whenever any difficulty is confronted, mental or physical. If you have to subtract 837 from 2941, even reading that mental arithmetic task is likely to activate this muscle. It also participates in combination with other muscles in the expressions of sadness, anger and fear; but in fear the brows would also be raised and the upper eyelid would be raised as well.


Lightman says that Harris’ nervous yawn means he is hiding something. That could be so, but yawns occur for many reasons. One of those reasons is nervousness, which Lightman mentions, but nervousness itself has many different causes, only one of which is concern about something being hidden.


Immediately after the police cars drive up and force Preston to come out of the van, there is a good view of Foster’s expression. She shows a very accurate depiction of anguish, a member of the sadness family of emotions. The eyebrows are pulled up in the center of her forehead, angling down, her cheeks are raised her mouth slack, and her breathing rapid.

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