Facial Expressions of Emotion: MythBuster Style

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A recent MythBuster episode focused on the 7 basic facial expressions of emotion by revealing only the eyes and had a battle between the sexes.

Science has proven that there are 7 basic emotions that are universal across all people of all cultures.

They are: Anger, Contempt, Fear, Sadness, Surprise, Disgust, and Happiness

Research has documented that all people – regardless of race, culture, ethnicity, age, gender or religion – express these emotions in the face in exactly the same ways.

When reading body language, knowing how to detect micro facial expressions is very beneficial especially when trying to delineate the veracity of a person’s words in combination with their body language.

How does one delineate between these basic facial expressions of emotion?

There are a few things to take into account and if you are very well versed in detecting facial expressions, especially micro facial expressions, and then you can detect all of these at once or individually:

  • eyebrow movement
  • lip/ jaw pursing/tightening
  • eye lid movement (lifted up or down)
  • bridge of the nose movement

Many professionals use the FACS coding system to determine the specific muscles that are moving with each facial expression of emotion. The system has corresponding AUs (action units) to label each muscle that moves, along with it’s intensity.

The short MythBusters video below shows how difficult it can be to determine what facial expression delineates what emotion especially when viewing ONLY the eyes.

The task becomes even more difficult when these expressions are flashing on and off the face in fractions of a second such as in real world interactions.

Perhaps the participants in the show would have done better if they had taken our microexpression or subtle expression training…

4 responses to “Facial Expressions of Emotion: MythBuster Style”

  1. Markus says:

    That was interesting. Altough i think some part for the reason that the people that was tested got some expressions wrong was due to the mythbuster crew not being able to preform a good example of the emotion they were looking for.

  2. Markus – That is a very good observation!

  3. Anon says:

    I agree. Those weren’t even classic expressions. I could identify what they were but those weren’t emotions.

  4. The facial expressions of emotion from the MythBusters’ video do not all represent universal facial expressions of emotion. Take into account that the expressions were only revealed through the eyes. The information included in the article above the video is based on scientific research over the past 40 years!!

    We included the video because everyone loves videos and some of the expressions are universal & accurate. It is good to see misconceptions regarding facial expressions as well as the facts.

    Humintell thanks our readers for their great Observations and Comments

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