Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Learning From The Dead: What Facial Muscles Can Tell Us About Emotion

Date:
June 17, 2008
Source:
University of Portsmouth
Summary:
Laugh and the world laughs with you, but wrinkle your nose and you could find yourself on your own. A scientist who examined the facial muscles in cadavers has found that the muscles which control our facial expressions are not common to everyone.

Laugh and the world laughs with you, but wrinkle your nose and you could find yourself on your own.

Related Articles


A new study by a scientist at the University of Portsmouth who examined the facial muscles in cadavers, has revealed that the muscles which control our facial expressions are not common to everyone.

The Risorius muscle, which experts believe controls our ability to create an expression of extreme fear, is found in only two thirds of the population.

Dr Bridget Waller has published a study in the American Psychological Association Journal which describes the unique variation of musculature structure in the face.

It is the first systematic study into the variations of muscles in the human face and how this relates to facial expression. It has important implications for our understanding of non-verbal communication.

Dr Waller is from the Centre for the Study of Emotion in the Department of Psychology. She collaborated with anatomists at the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University in the USA.

They found that all humans have a core set of five facial muscles which they believe control our ability to produce a set of standard expressions which convey anger, happiness, surprise, fear, sadness and disgust. But there are up to nineteen muscles which may be present in the face and many people do not possess all of them.

Dr Waller said: “Everyone communicates using a set of common signals and so we would expect to find that the muscles do not vary among individuals. The results are surprising - in some individuals we found only 60 per cent of the available muscles.”

She said that everyone is able to produce the same basic facial expressions and movements but we also have individual variations.

“Some less common facial expressions may be unique to certain people,” she said. “The ability to produce subtly different variants of facial expressions may allow us to develop individual ‘signatures’ that are specific to certain individuals.”

She said that there are significant implications for the importance of facial expression in society.

“Facial expression serves an essential function in society and may be a form of social bonding,” Dr Waller said. “It allows us to synchronise our behaviour and understand each other better.”

Dr Waller has completed studies which examined facial expressions in apes. She said that primates who live within social groups have a more elaborate communication repertoire including more complex facial expressions.

“There is a theory that language evolved to help us bond us together in social groups and we may be able to apply the same theory to facial expressions,” she said.

The face is the only part of the human anatomy which has been found to display such a massive variation in muscle structure. In the only other example of muscular differences, the forearm has a muscle which approximately fifteen per cent of the population don’t have.

Dr Anne Burrows from Duquesne University was one of the anatomists on the study. She said: “The problems with quantifying facial musculature is that they're not like other muscles. They're fairly flat, difficult to separate from surrounding connective tissue and they all attach to one another. They are very unlike muscles of the limbs, for example.

“The variation we see in the face is absolutely unique,” said Dr Waller.

Dr Waller said that actors need not worry because people will compensate for a lack of one muscle by using another to develop a similar expression. And people can learn to develop a facial expression by practising in front of a mirror.

“As humans we are able to change the level of control we have over our facial expressions,” said Dr Waller. “There is a great deal of asymmetry in the face and the left side is generally more expressive than the right. But someone who is unable to raise one eyebrow without raising the other could in fact learn to raise just one.”

The implication for those actors who have had botox speaks for itself.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Portsmouth. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Portsmouth. "Learning From The Dead: What Facial Muscles Can Tell Us About Emotion." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080616205044.htm>.
University of Portsmouth. (2008, June 17). Learning From The Dead: What Facial Muscles Can Tell Us About Emotion. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080616205044.htm
University of Portsmouth. "Learning From The Dead: What Facial Muscles Can Tell Us About Emotion." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080616205044.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

You Don't Have To Be Alcohol Dependent To Need Treatment

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 9 out of 10 excessive drinkers in the country are not alcohol dependent. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Your Complicated Job Might Keep Your Brain Young

Newsy (Nov. 20, 2014) Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found the more complex your job is, the sharper your cognitive skills will likely be as you age. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins