Blank Face

Facts About Blank Face

A blank face expression
A blank face expression. Photo courtesy of Body Language ProjectOpens in new window

A Blank face expression (also called deadpan face) is a facial expressionOpens in new window characterized by neutral configuration of the facial features, implying a lack of strong emotion.

A blank face is sometimes feigned to conceal one’s emotion. This is in some ways related to maskingOpens in new window. An induced expressionless, or emotionless face that is relaxed is especially known as poker face. For instance, the saying, ‘putting on a poker face’, as when referring to the common practice of maintaining one’s composure when playing the card gameOpens in new window poker.

People often wear this ‘emotionless expression’ when they are by themselves, especially when in a relaxed mood, sitting by themselves, and reading or watching TV.

Even though devoid of expression, the blank face sends a strong emotional message: Do Not Disturb. Thus, the blank face is generally used to keep people a distance. Such faces are most likely encountered in crowded places, like streets and shopping centers.

This facial ‘non-expression’ is used by most of us to keep strangers at a distance. For example, in crowded elevator, the blank face is probably the only tool we have to maintain our ‘private space’ unperturbed. The message is pretty clear: do not disturb.

A deadpan face is rarely perceived as neutral. Although this is a perfectly relaxed pose, if you have a naturally down-turned mouth, others might perceive you as ‘angry’ or ‘sad’ when, in fact, you are simply relaxing.

Studies show that children do not like to see expressionless faces: they become anxious and frustrated, confused, because they are not able to decipher the real feelings of the ones they look at. And this is not solely the case of children. Even adults tend to wonder about the real feelings of the ones that display an emotionless expression.

It is difficult to ‘read’ a blank face out of a context. While in public places, a blank face is just a ‘keep your distance’ mask, the ‘meeting’ blank face cannot be deciphered so easily. There are other factors you should consider and other body signals before concluding that your co-worker tries to send out a ‘do not disturb’ message (Headwig Lewis, Body Language: A Guide for Professionals).