Facial Expressions

Facial expressions. You see them all over the place. When you walk around a busy Penn State campus you see thousands of different facial expressions. You can tell who is happy, mad, stressed, upset, etc. Facial expressions are easy to see but what exactly are they?
     According to howstuffworks, a facial expression is defined as a way of transmitting information that can be interpreted, received, and read. Scientifically, when we are making facial expressions we are contracting our muscles. It takes approximately 62 muscles to frown but only 26 to smile. So why not smile?
     Smiling is generally everyone's favorite facial expression, obviously. What exactly is a smile? Smiles can occur consciously or unconsciously. Smiles and frowns are very easy facial expressions to read in any culture. You can be 1000 miles across around the world and see someone frown and know exactly how they are feeling. 
    Your facial expressions are controlled by the 43 muscles in your face. Most of these muscles are controlled by the facial nerve, which is the seventh cranial nerve.
      Facial expressions are basically a way of non-verbal communication. When you see someone across the street smiling you can tell that they are happy and in a good mood without them even saying anything. They are universal which makes it a great and simple way to communicate with someone even if they do not speak the same language as you

Sometimes facial expressions are voluntary but sometimes they are not. For example if you walk into a room and everyone yells surprise your face will show a facial expressions that shows everyone that you did not know this party was happening. In that case your facial expression will most likely be involuntary because you were not expecting it, and everyone can see that you are surprised.
     However, sometimes your facial expressions can be misleading. Sometimes people smile when they are sad to hide their feelings. Facial expressions are only useful if they are telling the truth. So...when you are happy voluntarily smile! And if you are sad try to smile because it takes less muscles to smile than frown and it makes your day much better when you smile.


I recently learned about Charles Darwin and his research about the evolution of facial expressions and the 6 universal facial expression in my Psychology 221 class. We were learning about nonverbal communication and how it is decoded and encoded by others. Darwin recognized the 6 universal facial expressions as sad, happy, surprised, disgusted, scared, and annoyed. There was research, as my textbook referenced, that should these expressions to be recognized across many culture throughout the world, and even shown by children who were born blind. I looked online and found this , which is the "Darwin Correspondence Project." I completed the questionnaire which gives you a picture and you have to recognize the facial expression shown. Its quite interesting how we all respond similarly to these nonverbal cues, and how much you can tell from just looking at someone.

I think there is a component to facial expressions that show genuineness. For example, have you ever seen a friend who seems sad but they are smiling and when you ask what is wrong, they erupt in tears? Or you find out they are just forcing a smile? I think that as humans, facial expressions are a way for humans to interprate emotions.

Interestingly enough I foundthis article that was quite resonant with the current political events. To extend the discussion further we can see how people perceive these facial expressions or body language in debates to judge wether one is fit for the presidency or not. To add to that, In the first presidential debate obamas facial expressions and body language showed that he was not confident enough. He sighed quite frequently and gave smiles of contempt when Romney made a point that he didn't quite like. The results of the debate were clear; Romney was given a thumbs up and Obama was given a thumbs down. I saw a big change in Obama's facial expressions in the next two debates and I probably think that that worked in his favor.
My point being, facial expressions are an important aspect of how we perceive people and this can also be extended to other stuff like judging a book by its cover. wonder on what basis is our judgement based on the presupposed "ideal" expressions.

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