Interesting Facts About Facial Expressions
All people have several dozen different facial expressions in common.
If I asked a woman from a remote village in Zimbabwe to portray confusion, joy or surprise, and make a teenager from the United States to guess the emotions portrayed, there is a very good chance that the guesses would be accurate.
A recent study has shown that there are dozens of universal facial expressions that express specific emotions.
These expressions are common to people all over the world and are accepted by people from different cultures.
Compared to previous notions, the new study reveals that there are many more universal expressions than previously thought.
For several decades, we accepted it in science that there were six facial expressions showing basic emotions –
A few years ago, a scientist questioned the completeness of existing knowledge and asked himself – maybe people still have more in common?
He spent hours researching people’s reactions to different situations, using both real-life situations and videos, such as how children open gifts.
In the course of his work, he noticed that, despite cultural differences, there are many complex expressions, which, however, seem very similar.
To test his theory, he conducted an experiment with his colleagues involving a man from four continents.
Participants had to read a situation described in one sentence (a friend just told you something funny and you feel amused) or “friends caught you singing your favorite song out loud and you feel embarrassed” and then express your emotions without words.
When researchers showed depictions of people from other cultures, viewers found matches to 30 different expressions better than simply mentioning them.
Interestingly, compassion, lust, and shyness were expressed in a way that proved culturally “untranslatable.”
The same research team shared participants in an emotion depiction experiment from China, Japan, Korea, India, and the United States and generated 5,942 different facial expression codes.
The creation of these codes required the precise positioning of 25,000 different facial muscles. We can generalize it that there is a lot in common in the way different cultures show emotions.
They formed many expressions in different cultures remarkably similarly, while others, such as the reaction to something nice and sweet, were not universal.
It should be noted, however, that most of the participants in the original experiment were from cultures with a strong technological connection, as they
are widely used in television, smartphones and other devices, so the results may not be as accurate and the conclusions about universal emotions premature.
To make sure the study was a success, the scientists went to a remote village in Bhutan where people had not visited from outside the world.
The researchers addressed the locals and asked to find matches between the entries made and the one-sentence situation descriptions.
In 15 cases out of 17, the Bhutanese determined the correct match at a speed that showed that it could not be a coincidence.
This suggests that most people’s emotions are universal and have a much wider range than previously thought.
However, the importance of culture should not be underestimated. All emotions are related to specific situations.
Culture teaches us what situations certain emotions belong to, but we can see what we have in common by looking deeper.