Facial Expressions

What do Sadness, Happiness and Fear Look like?

One of the most common questions asked within in the field of emotions is "Are facial expressions and emotions shared across cultures?" Does sadness in Canada look the same as sadness in Egypt?





An excellent resource on this topic is a book by Paul Ekman titled emotions revealed. Paul found that indeed emotions are shared. His research and that of others indicates that the expressions are part of human nature-they are recognized universally.

However, different cultures do offer outward views of emotions in different ways. For example, in some cultures like Japan it would not be seen as appropriate to show your grief blatantly to others in certain situations while in the US it is quite usual to share our grief.


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It has been a natural thing to say that what we feel inside is manifested through our faces through different expressions. If we feel happy, sad, scared or angry, it becomes easy to tell, even without words through the facial gestures that we display outwardly.

Indeed, what appears on our faces as a response to an emotion from within comes out as face expressions corresponding to that certain feeling. But until recently, there have been conflicts between psychological studies saying that there is no direct connection between people’s emotions and what appears on their faces.

These studies say that, although emotions can indeed be manifested through different facial expressions, it is not the only way to say for sure what emotion is felt by an individual. Expressions are only one of the many measures that can be used to determine a person’s emotions.

The key is greatly dependent on recognizing a persons` expressions and further interpreting what these manifestations are. According to arguments by experts, studying a person’s facial expression in response emotion does not seem to be 100% reliable. There are other factors such as hand gestures, tone of voice and posture to consider as well.


facial expressions chart

Noticing expressions of the face can be a tricky thing to use to measure a person’s true emotions. As experts say, an emotion is an impulse that sends triggers to our expressions. If a feeling is a bit weak, then that results to an emotion without an expression.

This brings the whole matter of recognizing expressions as just one of the ways in telling what a person truly feels inside. Another interesting way of looking into this is interpreting an emotion from the point of view of the people who perceive the expressions rather than the person expressing it.

Studies say that expression is like a switch, and that a person recognizing facial expressions bases his or her actions towards whoever displayed that expression through the outward manifestations of emotions. Thus, social interaction has evolved with the display of expressions and recognizing facial expressions signal the other person if he or she is welcome to proceed or needs to back off.

Facial expressions are a tricky part of human behavior. It may also vary depending on a person’s culture and the way an individual has been brought up. Furthermore, it may also be dependent on how a person responds to the elements around him. Different types of facial expression can be used as a defense as well as a means of opening up yourself.

Truly, an emotion can be manifested by facial expressions, but it is also in the same way as telling that an emotion can also be masked by facial expression. It greatly depends on how each individual utilizes that power to display whether his or her true feelings or masking it to come out as the opposite.

Facial expressions and a whole lot of other actions and manifestations form an intricate web of an individual’s even more complex emotions and it will take many considerations in order to ascertain what a person really feels inside.

Recognizing expressions is strongly linked to developing emotional literacy.

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