Facial Expressions

Cover of "The Face"

The face is a source of the transmission of meaning. Facial expressions can tell us ahead of words what a person is thinking or feeling or even acting out.

The face is the primary site for communication of emotional states and as such, is the primary signal system for communicating emotions.” Successful Nonverbal Communication, D. Leathers, 1997

Some researchers also suggest that facial expressions are emotions. If this is the case, how much control do we have over our expressive behaviour and  can we be aware of what our faces are expressing emotionally?

Particular parts of the face give meaningful indicators of what a person is thinking or feeling. The nose will wrinkle with disgust if encountering bad smells or taste. The upper lip will curl or raise with disgust with breached moral boundaries, such as seeing inappropriate sex acts or other boundary violations. The upper part of the face provides the most useful clues for identifying anger in a person with the brows lowered, vertical lines appearing between the brows and the upper and lower eyes lids draw closer together.

The face communicates evaluative judgements through expressions of either pleasant or unpleasant expressions that show whether we see the current focus of our attention as either good or bad. The face also indicates  interest or disinterest in the people we are with or our environmental surroundings. The face communicates emotional intensity, and the understanding or lack of understanding of a situation or question.

The impressions we make on others is influenced by our face’s appearance and the facial muscle involvement a lot more than we give it credit. We all know a fake smile, or the facial expression of the television/movie shyster. We can find the various characteristics of television actors by visual cues that their character’s faces show without listening to words spoken.

A good communicator must  identify the various cues the face displays and  be aware of what their face displays.


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