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This paper describes an activity making use of theatrical masks, which demonstrates the way in which the emotional response to the expression on a masked actor’s face, is constructed by the interplay of at least three elements. Analysis of the activity suggests that the meaning of a masked actor’s performance is co-created between the protagonist, the antagonist and the audience. The activity demonstrates that an observer may see and respond to expressions on another’s face that are the projections of the observer alone. The interpretation of the inner emotional state, intention, and meaning of the emotions of others, therefore, has at least an element of projection. An understanding of this phenomenon may have important implications for the study of human facial expressions and their relationship to emotions and motivations. In leadership roles, title, status and power may act as a mask, the dialogues in which leaders engage may be witnessed, as an audience witnesses a masked performance, and the activity described here, may help those involved in leadership development, to understand some of the limitations to a leader’s ability to control the impressions they seek to create.



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