Researchers at the Ohio State University recently announced that the average human had 21 different facial expressions (1). Previously people thought there was only anger, happiness, disgust, surprise, sadness and fear. These expressions are considered universal across cultures, religions and races. That list has now been expanded to include more subtle impressions.
The recognition is based off of the way the muscles move behind the skin to create an expression (3). People can generally recognize these emotions based upon the expression a person provides in any given circumstance. Finding 21 different expressions changes the amount of information a person can gain from watching anothers face.
Famous philosophers such as Aristotle, Rene Descartes, Leonard Da Vinci and Charles Darwin believed in facial expressions as traits hundreds of years before modern findings. Research has now supported their discoveries originally derived from watching, studying, and artistically recreating people. They were astute reviewers of the world and were able to discern these patterns among varying interactions with people.
You may be surprised that facial expression is something most of us do and our brains are hardwired to do so with mixed accuracy. Without the ability to discern the social networks in which we live it would be difficult to create trust and accurately understand friend from foe. Reading facial expressions, even if not on a conscious level, is something we are born with like the ability to speak, understand, grow or develop.
Processing of facial expressions is a deep process similar to speech. The human mind can read and understand the meaning of comments and activities through this para-language. The philosophers were deep processors and were able to slowly start understanding the patterns of life and what makes us the same and what makes us unique.
The practical application can range from anything related to software development, theater, interrogation, psychological research, and much more. It is considered “honest communication” because people are not able to easily hide these emotions as a natural reaction to events within the world. If you question a person’s motives given them new information and see how they react. Go with your gut!