L eading scientific thinkers of their time, such as Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Guillaume Duchenne, and Charles Darwin, have long promoted the idea that there are a handful of basic emotions that people express. In recent decades, that group has crystalized into six core emotions: happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust. But there are clearly many shades of gray between those emotions. Martinez wanted to know whether compound emotions, such as happy surprise, were expressed using the same muscle movements of both happiness and surprise, or whether the expression involved a unique set of muscles that represented some amalgam of the two.
The Seven Universal Emotions We Wear On Our Face
What are 7 Universal Facial Expressions? An Introduction to the Science.
Gasping faces similar to this one are widely thought to reveal fear and submission in Western cultures, but an isolated society in Papua New Guinea associates them with anger and threats. In fact, several expressions commonly understood in the West—including one for fear—have very different meanings to one indigenous, isolated society in Papua New Guinea. For more than a century, scientists have wondered whether all humans experience the same basic range of emotions—and if they do, whether they express them in the same way. By the s, emeritus psychologist Paul Ekman, then at the University of California UC in San Francisco, had come up with an accepted methodology to explore this question. He showed pictures of Westerners with different facial expressions to people living in isolated cultures, including in Papua New Guinea, and then asked them what emotion was being conveyed.
Are There Universal Facial Expressions?
For years, scientists studying facial expressions have focused their research on six primary emotions: happiness, surprise, anger, sadness, fear, and disgust. As a result generations of facial-expression research papers have included panels that look something like this:. That one is from a paper about cultural differences in the perception of facial expressions. Pretty straightforward, right?
Ekman noticed that many of the apparent differences in facial expressions across cultures were due to context. To describe this phenomenon, Dr. Ekman coined the term display rules : rules we learn in the course of growing up about when, how, and to whom it is appropriate to show our emotional expressions. Can you read the universal language? Find out for yourself by guessing which emotion is being expressed in each of the four photographs below, taken during Dr.