Psychologists believe that fleeting expressions can sometimes reveal how we really feel about other people. The photo above of John McCain, taken by Reuters photographer Jim Bourg, shows the presidential candidate going the wrong way around the table after the third presidential debate and sticking out his tongue in the direction of Barack Obama. Does it unwittingly convey what McCain really thinks of his opponent?
It seems unfair to pick a single photo to describe how a candidate feels — all of us look like idiots during some part of each day. But we use expressions as guides all the time. Here is how John McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama want us to see them. If unflattering pictures are deceptive, what about the flattering ones?
Or could it be that photos — at least the ones that are not posed — tell us something important? Psychologists such as Paul Ekman and John Gottman believe that microexpressions, rapid expressions often overlooked in everyday interactions, can give us important insights into a person’s innermost thoughts and feelings.
So is that McCain photo a hatchet job, or a window into his soul?