There are many important issues to discuss this election season, but neurologist Dr. Richard Cytowic recently highlighted a new one: Ted Cruz’s face. Let’s hear him out.
The Texas senator has garnered some unsavory comparisons: Grandpa Munster is a typical one; Kevin from The Office is another. And recently, Cytowic attempted in a Psychology Today post to figure out what, exactly, it is about the Texas senator’s face that so many people apparently find off-putting. (The post was published last month but gained a second life over the weekend after being picked up by Raw Story.)
Cytowic, who declares himself “not a Democrat,” argues that Cruz’s face sends subtle facial cues that go against what he’s saying, which complicates the very thing we are trained to do from birth: figure people out. We scan every face we see to make an instant judgment of trust, an instinctual swipe right/left we do in order to figure out whether a person is dangerous or worth our time. Facial cues — eyebrows curling, nose flaring, forehead wrinkling, lip licking — help clue us into the mind behind the face.
But in Cruz’s case, Cytowic writes, his facial downfall comes in the form of his smile, or lack thereof. In a typical smile, the corners of the mouth turn up; this causes a chain reaction that makes the corners of the eyes contract, creating crow’s feet. But Cruz’s face doesn’t seem to do that, according to Cytowic: The smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes, which can be perceived as insincerity.
Another facial-oddity characteristic Cytowic points out is just north of the missing crow’s feet on Cruz’s face: the downward bend of the outside of his eyebrows. Try doing this yourself — it’s not easy to have the inner corners of your eyebrows bend up while the outer corners swerve down. “Downturned expressions usually signal disagreeableness or disgust,” Cytowic writes. In other words, Cruz could accidentally be sending cues at rallies that he’s not a fan of his voters, which isn’t exactly the message he wants to convey. “He may well be unaware that the message of his body language is incongruent with his words,” Cytowic continues. Suddenly Jeb Bush’s secondhand-embarrassment problem doesn’t seem quite so bad.