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.
See Cruz through the years:
Ted Cruz through the years, with family
A neurologist has tried to pinpoint what bugs him about Ted Cruz's face
Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz, left, and Don. R. Willett, right, leave the federal courthouse after a pre-trial hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003, in Austin, Texas. Lawyers and federal judges met earlier to plan for the upcoming redistricting trial. Willett is deputy Attorney General for Legal Counsel. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
Ted Cruz, from the Texas Attorney General's Office, speaks to members of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday, April 18, 2006, in Austin, Texas. Texas lawmakers embark on a 30-day special session to repair the state's method of paying for public education. Cruz explained the court rulings on school finance to the committee. (AP Photo/Harry Cabluck)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 21: Ted Cruz (R) Texas
(Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call)
Texas US Senate Republican primary candidate Ted Cruz, left, talks with his father Rafael Cruz as he works at the campaign's phone bank, on election day, Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Texas Republican Ted Cruz speaks to reporters Tuesday, May 29, 2012, in Houston. Cruz placed second behind Lt. Gov. David Dewurst in a field of nine candidates in the Republican primary race for a U.S. Senate seat. Cruz and Dewhurst will square off in a second round of voting July 31. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
U.S. Senate Candidate Ted Cruz, right, has a discussion with David Dewhurst supporter Sherri Heinzman before the Texas Federation of Republican Woman luncheon during the Texas Republican Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, Friday, June 8, 2012. Cruz is competing with Dewhurst for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. They face a runoff July 31 after no one in a crowded GOP field won a majority of the votes cast in last month's primary. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
U.S. Senate candidate Ted Cruz arrives for a luncheon near the state Republican convention, Friday, June 8, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
U.S. Senate candidate candidate Ted Cruz and his wife, Heidi, wave to delegates after he spoke on the final day of the state Republican convention at the FWCC on Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, Sen.-elect Ted Cruz, R-Texas, left, smiles as he listens to campaign chief consultant Jason Johnson go over election results as they come in, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013. Cruz was scheduled to speak on the scope of treaty power in the U.S. Constitution. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2014 file photo, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Never mind dropping oil prices. U.S. producers are pushing harder than ever for the right to sell U.S. crude oil overseas. It might seem counterintuitive: Oil prices are as low as they have been at any point since 2009 and the height of the Great Recession. Depending on the projection, prices could drop further still with slowing economies across the world. Oil producers are playing a longer game, betting that long-term demand remains strong and new markets offer lucrative rewards for U.S. producers. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke, File)
LYNCHBURG, VA - MARCH 23: Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) stands on stage his his daughter, Catherine Cruz, 4, left, his wife, Heidi Cruz, and his older sister, Caroline Cruz, 6, right, after he made a speech announcing his candidacy for a presidential bid at Liberty University on Monday March 23, 2015 in Lynchburg, VA.(Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks as he campaigns Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
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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.