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Why the Angry Look?
#1 Posted : Wednesday, April 20, 2011 4:34:17 AM

Posts: 36

Have you ever had a moment in life where you knew something really wasn't important, in fact it's quite silly, but you realized that it has had a subconscious effect on you for years? And even after you recognized the effect, your mind still can't quite shake the effect completely? For over a year now, I've had one of those realizations. And indeed, it's so silly that I hadn't even thought to write about it. Yet, I would be willing to bet that it has had a negative subconscious effect on almost everyone. In turn, people are being treated unfairly due to this subconscious effect. So what is it and what can be done?

Ahh, I love teasing you with the main point before getting there. Instead of going straight to the point, I'd like to take a small detour. Let's start off with a beginner tutorial on how to draw a very simplistic human face and give it a little emotion. So I'd like to introduce you to my friend Mr. Egghead.

As you can see, my artistic abilities are quite impressive. Only bad artists use all those fancy frills like making it look good or like a real person. Not for me. Mr. Egghead only needs to be very basic with just a couple standard eyes, a hook nose, and a straight-line mouth. If you were to attribute an emotion to him, what would it be? Probably some neutral emotion. Feeling "okay". But as an artist, I want to give Mr. Egghead some real emotion. So let's use the most basic feature for giving emotion: the mouth.

Now Mr. Egghead has some emotion. I'd ask you to take a moment to think of the emotions of these three Mr. Eggheads, but you probably instantly attributed emotions to at least the first two if not all three. Everyone likes a nice smile and that first one has it, he must be happy. The second guy is in frown-town, sad. The third is gnashing his teeth, he's looking angry or upset. Did you get a different impression or am I right on target? Yet, the mouth isn't the only way to express emotion. Even with a very simplistic figure like Mr. Egghead with a neutral mouth, the eyebrows can work wonders.

Now what emotions do you see? I see a relatively neutral Mr. Egghead as the first one, but then he gets angry or mean in the second picture. Finally he's looking a little sad in the third. Poor guy must have been sad about being so mean before. Now, what about combining the mouth and the eyebrows to really show some emotion?

What do you see? To me, the first one definitely looks happy. The second one combines sad brows with happy mouth and it gets a nervous smile. The third one seems like a devilish smile to me, it's almost as if he's happy about having done something bad. The fourth looks like he's stressed out, so it turns out that those teeth aren't just anger, but also stress or anxiety. However, when we combine those teeth with the brows in the fifth one, he looks angry. That's the angriest I've seen Mr. Egghead, what'd you do to him?!? Finally we get to the last one with the sad brows and the gnashing teeth. He looks like he's about to break down and cry. So really, it seems like those gnashing teeth show extreme emotion, but it relies on the eyebrows to clarify which extreme emotion it is.

Isn't it amazing how much emotion you can read into such basic drawings just by looking at the mouth and the eyebrows? It's as if those expressions are subconsciously drilled into our heads. Are they? Let's take a look at some of your favorite cartoon heroes and villains and see if there's some things in common:
Gargamel- Smurf villain

Skeletor - He-Man villain

Cruella De Vil - 101 Dalmatians villain

Destro and Baroness - GI Joe villains

Three Smurf heroes

He-man - hero

101 dalmation pups - hero

GI Joe heroes

So what do you see? What's the big difference you notice between the heroes and the villains? You seem to see a little more teeth with the villains, but that's not quite as consistent for the villains or heroes as the really big difference. Have you noticed the eyebrows? The villain eyebrows are always raised as you go out from the middle of the face. Meanwhile, the heroes are level eye-browed or sometimes lowered eyebrows (my sad brows). And not only that, among the heroes, the kindlier ones tend to have the lowest eyebrows while the more rugged ones like Gi Joe may be very slightly raised.

Of course, there are exceptions in both villains and heroes and eyebrows will change a bit to show different emotions, but as a general trend it holds true. The villains have raised-end eyebrows while the heroes have neutral or lowered eyebrows.

So what in the world does this have to do with everyday life?

Well, awhile back I was looking at a picture of a girl on an online dating site. She was attractive and shared a lot of facial features with other girls who I have thought were attractive. She definitely had one of the looks that I go for, yet there was something not quite right. There was something that was turning me off to her and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. So I'd come back to her picture day after day and still couldn't quite grasp what was turning me off. And then one day I had that "a ha!" moment. It was her eyebrows!

Her eyebrows were abnormally raised. Taking a quick look in the mirror, I can see that my eyebrows are almost exactly level from end to end and might actually be slightly lower at the ends. However, I do realize that it's not uncommon for a person's natural eyebrow to be slightly raised at the ends. The key words here being natural and slightly.

Many of you guys out there probably don't know this, but a very large portion of women pluck their eyebrows. If you take a good close look at natural brows, you'll see that there are some random hairs that don't quite fit in a smooth line and almost everyone naturally has at least a few light uni-brow hairs. If the person doesn't have those "imperfections", then they're probably plucking. Now that you know that, take a good look at the women around you and notice how many of them pluck.

The truth of the matter is that bushy eyebrows aren't exactly the most attractive thing on women (at least in my opinion). Most women agree and many make their eyebrows narrower. Of course, some go way too far and end up with pencil-thin eyebrows which look weird, but most recognize what a good balance is. Yet, in the process of making them narrower, each woman has a choice: do you pluck from the top or the bottom? While narrowing, you have the ability to shape your brows a little bit.

As you know from my little drawing experiment and cartoon experiment, the shape of your eyebrows have a lot of subconscious meaning. Despite this, an alarming style trend that I've seen is that a lot of women are plucking from the bottom, especially at the ends. Take another look at Baroness, the GI Joe villain, as that's a great example of what many women are doing. Many women are unknowingly plucking themselves right into angry/mean/villain territory. I have to ask, why the angry look? Women, please do yourself a favor and try to keep the natural endpoints on your brows or if you have naturally high endpoints, shape them a little bit lower. Don't raise the ends!

For you guys out there, don't let your subconscious brain rule you. Recognize that a woman's eyebrows may be giving you an unintentional negative signal and learn to ignore it. Don't judge a woman too harshly just because she never thought about that subconscious message either. At the very least, give her some credit for trying to look good.

To finish that story with the girl on the online dating site, once I realized what was subconsciously holding me back, I did decide to message her. So I sent a nice message and didn't mention her brows at all (duh!). I then patiently waited for a response which never came. Hmm, maybe her eyebrows were accurate after all. hah!
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#2 Posted : Friday, April 22, 2011 2:25:52 AM

Posts: 36

Of course, how could I forget this classic Seinfeld clip:

And just in case there was any confusion, I know that raised eyebrows and lowered eyebrows normally have a different meaning than how I use those terms in this article. In this article, raised eyebrows means that the ends of the eyebrows furthest from the nose is higher than the ends closest to the nose. Lowered eyebrows would be the opposite.
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#3 Posted : Tuesday, August 02, 2011 10:41:22 PM
Posts: 3

wow, so cool you are. I have not never researched such thing. your post is very informative
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