The Expressive Power of the Face

IDevice Icon Facial Expressions and Emotions

Earlier we noted that one of the core Functions of NVC is to convey Emotions. We also noted that this is most typically done via facial expressions and the tonality of speech.

While the meaning of various gestures used by humans can vary widely by culture, researchers such as psychologist Paul Ekman have come to believe that there are certain core emotional expressions that are conveyed by the face that are interpreted the same way across cultures.

International SADFISH

SADF(I)SH is a fun mnemonic device* to remember the emotions that are recognized (somewhat) cross-culturally:

Interest--there is some support for this one, but not as clear as the other ones.

(De)Coding the Face

Back in 1976, Dr. Ekman and his colleague Dr. Wallace Friesen published the Facial Action Coding System, or FACS, a system that comprehensively inventoried the muscles movements that create smiles, frowns and grimaces. A great deal of research has been conducted since then.

Please watch this video (11:24 in length, Original Air Date: Monday, Apr 28, 2008) from the KQED Quest series exploring this interesting aspect of human communication.

Emotions Revealed


* Tip of the hat to Professor Katheryn Maguire from Wayne State University for sharing this with us...

IDevice Icon Online Face Animation Tools

Because the various elements of the face are now well documented, computer programs have been developed to help create realistic facial expressions. Two examples are available online if you would like to try them out.

Do2Learn Facial Expressions Tool (opens in new window)

Facial Expression Tool interface


ArtNATOMY Anatomical Basis of Facial Expression Learning Tool (opens in new window)

Artnatomy Tool Interface

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