‘Who or what makes you happy?’

By Shannon Wilson

A micro expression is a brief and involuntary facial expression that is shown according to the emotions being experienced by a person at the time. It is difficult to fake a micro expression. For example, when a person experiences the micro expression of surprise their eyebrows are raised, their eyes widen and their mouth may open. However, when a person feels happy their crow’s feet wrinkle, their cheeks push up and there is movement from the muscle that orbits the eye.

I went and asked a variety of people that are close to me and in my everyday life this question, “Who or what makes you happy?” I did so without telling them the question before hand so that I could get their first and initial response to the question and to be able to capture their micro expressions. Some people were pretty sure about what made them happy and their responses were fast. It took them less time to process the question and they were often confident in their answers and these people showed fewer micro expressions. While others took more time and as a result there were more micro expressions that showed on their faces over the time they took to reply.

My Mum pursed her lips after answering to think of other things, but her initial reaction was fast.  Mickey Wilson: “My children. Hmmm…my cats, my dog. Going on holidays.”

My Mum pursed her lips after answering to think of other things, but her initial reaction was fast.
Mickey Wilson: “My children. Hmmm…my cats, my dog. Going on holidays.”

Dylan smiled. I think he felt awkward answering such a personal question. He complained; he said he didn’t know what to say.  Dylan Ballance: “Hmm cricket. Let’s just leave this. Ah [laughs] my girlfriend.”

Dylan smiled. I think he felt awkward answering such a personal question. He complained; he said he didn’t know what to say.
Dylan Ballance: “Hmm cricket. Let’s just leave this. Ah [laughs] my girlfriend.”

Kate was serious. Although she answered quickly, her expression suggested that it was important to her that she spoke accurately.  Kate Mattison: “My parents.”

Kate was serious. Although she answered quickly, her expression suggested that it was important to her that she spoke accurately.
Kate Mattison: “My parents.”

Jess took her time to answer, but you could tell by her expression that all the things that made her happy were running through her mind.  Jessica Harris: “Ah [laughs] I like to… I like to draw and I like to lie under the trampoline and look at the trees above me.”

Jess took her time to answer, but you could tell by her expression that all the things that made her happy were running through her mind.
Jessica Harris: “Ah [laughs] I like to… I like to draw and I like to lie under the trampoline and look at the trees above me.”

Kate smiled. It seemed she knew what made her happy and answered straight away.  Kate Sedgwick: “Sunny days and Dylan (her boyfriend) [laughs].”

Kate smiled. It seemed she knew what made her happy and answered straight away.
Kate Sedgwick: “Sunny days and Dylan (her boyfriend) [laughs].”

Dad laughed. His response was simple and immediate.  Graham Wilson: “Success. And when my all my family is home from Australia and England. When I go on holiday.”

Dad laughed. His response was simple and immediate.
Graham Wilson: “Success. And when my all my family is home from Australia and England. When I go on holiday.”

Warwick thought the question was rather personal. He shied away from the camera and protested at having to answer.  Warwick Hattingh: “ Ah. Hmmm. I don’t know. Doing fun things and you.”

Warwick thought the question was rather personal. He shied away from the camera and protested at having to answer.
Warwick Hattingh: “ Ah. Hmmm. I don’t know. Doing fun things and you, you make me happy.”

Rose is sure of who and what makes her happy and that is God. She took no time at all to respond.  Rose Macmillan: “God’s creation; the birds and the flowers and people I love.”

Rose is sure of who and what makes her happy and that is God. She took no time at all to respond.
Rose Macmillan: “God’s creation; the birds and the flowers and people I love.”

Our domestic worker who has looked after my brother and me since we were born was clear on what makes her happy. She responded fairly quickly and very genuinely.  Reason Nyamugara: “I am happy seeing you when you come from South Africa. You and Ryan (my brother) tete.”

Our domestic worker who has looked after my brother and me since we were born was clear on what makes her happy. She responded fairly quickly and very genuinely.
Reason Nyamugara: “I am happy seeing you when you come from South Africa. You and Ryan (my brother) tete.”

Although at ease with her answer, Ali looked away from the camera because the person who made her happy was sitting on the couch next to her.   Alex Edwards: “This one right here (her boyfriend) cause he is stupid and funny and also my mom – she has pretty cool clothes, Moon (her cat) cause she’s cute and Misty (her best friend) cause she listens to my perpetual drama and bullshit all day.”

Although at ease with her answer, Ali looked away from the camera because the person who made her happy was sitting on the couch next to her.
Alex Edwards: “This one right here (her boyfriend) cause he is stupid and funny and also my mom – she has pretty cool clothes, Moon (her cat) cause she’s cute and Misty (her best friend) cause she listens to my perpetual drama and bullshit all day.”

Ester, who has been looking after me since junior school, made me laugh as I held the camera up to photograph her.  Ester Chimbiro: “Just to laugh. To talk with Reason.”

Ester, who has been looking after me since junior school, made me laugh as I held the camera up to photograph her.
Ester Chimbiro: “Just to laugh. To talk with Reason.”

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