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Human Facial Expressions and Emotions Essay

To accept that the implications of human emotions are universal is indeed very extensive. It speaks to an issue that is deeply entrenched in human nature and it is by no means a trivial question. Much research has been conducted in this field of emotions through the analysis of facial expressions, categorizing evidence into two primary categories: those in favor of the universality of emotions, known as the Universality thesis, or those in favor of cultural influence on emotions.

While it has been largely accepted that there is a basic universal language in the field, the bulk of the debate centers on where exactly factors controlling expression of facial expressions lie on this spectrum. There is undeniably overwhelming evidence in support of the universality thesis with both qualitative (judgment studies) and quantitative (muscle unit measurements and brain mapping techniques) data; however, one could not overlook the behavioral and anatomical evidence in favor of culture-specific expressions.

Therefore, universal emotions may serve as a very fundamental framework among all humans; yet, it is cultural differences that fine-tune this structure into the emotions each individual expresses. Introduction to Universality Thesis: The Darwinian Hypothesis Principles for the Expression of Emotions The Work of Charles Darwin. Many of the ideas that Darwin formulated in his 1872 book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals have led to this field of research. On the book’s most basic level, he defended that emotion expressions are evolved and adaptive (Hess & Thibault, 2009).

However, Darwin also posits three crucial principles from which many of the subsequent fundamental questions and debate over emotions and their purpose stem. The Principle of Serviceable Habits. As Hess and Thibault (2009) note, this first principle takes a Lamarckian view of the inheritance of emotions genetically through the force of habits. Darwin explicitly underscores the concept and force of habit. It also speaks very much to the functionality of emotions and their expressions, although most of them are vestigial.

However, these traits could still be observed in animals because the civilization of humans would suppress such instinctual tendencies. A common example is that of rage and aggression as a “playful sneer” or “ferocious snarl” (Darwin, 1872) reveals animal descent. The Principle of Antithesis. In a reversal of the first principle, the second principle asserts that some expressions are so directly opposite to nature that the only means is that of expressive communication (Darwin 1872).

This makes the expression almost analogous to the voice for the purpose of intercommunication. It is worth noting, however, the Darwin extends this principle to not only states, but to traits as well (Hess & Thibault, 2009). For instance, Darwin (1872) postulates that the enigmatic action of a gaping mouth could indicate a feebleness of character. Such actions eventually become ingrained through habit. The Principle of the Direct Action of the Excited Nervous System on the Body. This final principle that Darwin outlines could be considered the direct product of the nervous system. Therefore, some expressions occur to balance excess emotions. For instance, consider the absurd nature of laughter (Hess & Thibault, 2009). Heckler (1873) proposed that laughter could in fact be a protective reflex that compromises the excess of the circulatory and respiratory systems through the irritation of vasomotor nerves. The work of Darwin and universality thesis will later by revived in the late 1960s and early 1970s by the judgments studies of Paul Ekman.

Evidence in Support of Universality Evidence derived from Judgment Studies Introduction. The universality thesis is most contingent upon judgment data, evidence of observers seeing the same emotions in all faces (Russell, 1994). Paul Ekman is largely considered to be the pioneer and preeminent scholar in the field of emotions, and his judgment studies with overwhelming evidence supporting the universality of facial expressions are frequently cited in subsequent studies on this topic.

The earlier view before studies conducted by Ekman and Friesen from the late 1960s was that facial expressions completely differed from culture to culture (La Barre, 1947). With Ekman and Friesen’s groundbreaking work on the constancy of facial expressions throughout cultures in 1971, however, the tremendous evidence has persuaded much of the psychology world to accept the universality thesis although skeptics still remain (Ekman & Friesen, 1987). Pan-cultural udgment studies. Among the first of these pan-cultural judgment studies was conducted by Ekman, Sorenson, and Friesen (1969) in New Guinea, Borneo, Brazil, the United States, and Japan where they found evidence in favor of pan-cultural elements in facial displays; observers in these cultures were able to recognize similar emotions in the a standard set of photographs. They first obtained samples of photographed facial expressions that were free of cultural differences.

The subjects, too, were carefully selected as data needed to be collected from virtually isolated preliterate societies to eliminate the variable of mass media (Ekman et al. , 1969). Photographs of Caucasians—male and female, adult and children—were used, all of whom were professional and amateur actors. The observers observed primarily the preliterate societies from New Guinea and Borneo, two isolated communities that required translators. 1] The emotion Happy (H) was most universally recognized with tremendous accuracy in responses—United States: 97 H; Brazil: 97 H; Japan: 87 H; New Guinea: 99 H (Pidgin) and 82 H (Fore); and Borneo: 92 H. Fear (F), however, seem to generate a more varied response between different cultures, with Surprise (SU) and Anger (A) as answers as well—United States: 88 F; Japan: 71 F, 26 SU; New Guinea: 46 F, 31 A (Pidgin) and 54 F, 25 A (Fore); Borneo: 40 F, 33 SU.

There were also variations within Disgust-Contempt (D) with some mixtures of A and in the Borneo society, even H; A included some D and F; SU included F and A, which these variations occurring primarily in the isolated societies; and finally, Sadness (SA) was sometimes interpreted as A, with A being the only given response in the Fore group of New Guinea. While there is certainly evidence for some basic universality, Ekman, Sorenson, and Friesen attributed the discrepancies to language barriers and task unfamiliarity in the illiterate societies. Flaws and how they were subsequently addressed.

Ekman and Friesen (1987) later published a study in which they acknowledge some flaws of previous judgment studies. With respect to the study above, three problems that limited them are: (1) there has only been one such study, (2) not all six emotions were accurately recognized, and (3) the facial expressions were posed as opposed to spontaneous (Ekman & Friesen, 1987). In response to the last criticism, Ekman and Friesen (1972) designed a study of facial expressions shown by Japanese and Americans while watching stress-inducing films of body mutilation and neutral films of natural andscape. When subjects from each of the two cultures viewed the films in the absence of a scientist with a hidden video camera, the facial expressions from both groups were virtually identical; when viewing the same films in the presence of a scientist, however, the Japanese tended to mask negative expressions with smile, lending support to the presence of cultural display rules when different cultures manage and mask universal expressions.

The primary criticism, however, was (1) again, there has only been one such study, and (2) the films only elicit two emotions (disgust and fear)—other universal expressions were not determined for (Ekman & Friesen, 1987). Later studies, however, involving photographs of facial expressions shown to observers of across 12 literature cultures found very high agreement by multiple researchers including Ekman, Friesen, Sorenson, and Izard (Ekman et at. , 1969; Izard, 1971).

The multiple replications of this design lends to its credibility (Ekman & Friesen, 1987). Universality of the recognizing intensity. Ekman and Friesen (1987) sought to further extend their basic judgment studies by testing for four different hypotheses of cross-cultural agreement for (1) single-choice judgment tasks; (2) the strongest emotion; (3) the second strongest emotion; and (4) strength of emotion. The nations that were chosen included 8 different languages from both Western and non-Western countries.

In (1), the single-choice judgment task that replicated previous studies, once again, produced accurate results in terms of the percentage of subjects in a country correctly identifying with a predicted emotion. For instance, two examples include Happiness, in which the percentage ranged from 98% (Scotland) to 69% (Sumatra); for Surprise, 94% (Japan) to 78% (Sumatra), while Sadness, ranged from 92% (U. S. ) to 76% (Turkey). Overall, the emotional term chosen by the majority of the subjects in each culture was accurate 178 out of 180 times.

Hypothesis (2) was also supported: 177 out of 180 times, the emotion that was judged to be the most prominent by the majority of each culture was also the predicted emotion. Hypothesis (3), which predicted the universality of the secondary emotion, was sustained as well: in every culture, there was complete agreement about the secondary emotion signaled by expressions of disgust and fear. The results for sadness and surprise, however, were too infrequent to be conclusive (5 out of 30 opportunities and 8 out of 30 respectively).

Further research needs to be conducted to determine the cause for this discrepancy (Ekman & Friesen, 1987). Hypothesis (4) required subjects to judge the intensity of emotions on an 8-point scale (1-slight, 4-moderate, 8-strong) to predict the universality of judging. This, according to Ekman and Friesen (1987) however, led to inconclusive results. Using a one-way multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), F(54,2743)=3. 95, signifies a moderate association between culture and intensity judgments.

However, instead, the six univariate tests ranged from 2. 3 in Sadness to 6. 66 in Surprise, indicating that there are significant differences among cultures in this respect. These differences, according, to Ekman and Friesen, could have 2 possibilities: (1) politeness and a greater uncertainty about a foreigner or (2) the language barrier, as observers had make judgments in language other than English (Ekman & Friesen, 1987). Nevertheless, with three of these hypotheses confirmed, the evidence for universal facial expressions is undeniably overwhelming despite these flaws.

Evidence based on Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and Action Units Introduction. Based on the evidence for the presence of six basic emotions across cultures,—happiness, sadness, anger, fear, disgust and surprise—qualitative descriptions of facial muscles associated with each of them have been identified. For instance, happy expressions include tense lower eyelids, raised cheeks and lip corners pulled up, while sad expressions include inner eyebrows raised and drawn together, and lip corners pulled down (Kohler et al. 2004). Based on such observations, Ekman and Friesen (1978) developed the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) by identifying the presence of action units (AU). They serve as the standard set of facial expressions. Target AUs in universal emotions. Kohler et al (2004) sought to identify which AUs characterized the four universal emotions of happiness, sadness, anger, and fear. A total of 128 images of emotional expressions were used in a sample of 105 subjects from Drexel University.

Of these subjects, 63 were men and 42 were women. There were also 71 Caucasian, 9 Africa-American, 4 Hispanic/Latino, and 21 Asian-American participants, indicating ethnic diversity. They were then asked whether each facial expression matched the target emotion. FACS ratings revealed that uniquely absent and present AUs were found for each emotion (Kohler et al, 2004). In Happy, the presence of AU 6, 7, and 26 was ositively associated with happy recognition, and determined that the presence of 6 increased recognition four times; in Sad, AU 4, 17, and 25 were positively while 15 was negatively associated; in Anger, AU 4, 5, and 16 were positively while 23 was negatively associated[2]; and in Fear, AU 5, 1, and 26 were positively while 4 was negatively associated. By defining expressions quantitatively with unique muscle patterns over a diverse subject group, the universality thesis is further strengthened. The 2004 Athens Olympics Game.

Psychologist David Matsmoto[3] (2006) conducted a field behavioral study of the facial expressions displayed by medal winners of the judo competition during the 2004 Athens Olympics Games using F F ACS. With judo photographer Bob Willingham, they captured the spontaneous reactions of 84 medal winners from 35 different countries—the most diverse ethnic group in a spontaneously intense emotional field study—at 3 different times: (1) when they completed the match, (2) when they received their medals from the dignitary, and (3) when they posed on the podium.

Matsumoto (2006) found that independent of cultural backgrounds, there are very specific facial expressions that occur in emotionally-charged contexts. This study was designed in response to some criticisms of judgments studies and previous field studies conducted in other sporting events including bowling and soccer (Kraut & Johnson, 1979; Ruiz-Belda et al. , 2003). A crucial concern about judgments studies held in laboratories is their posed stimuli and artificial nature because they lack the investigation of the expression within a social context (Matsumoto, 2006).

While later field studies were conducted in order to address this concern, there were three flaws that Matsumoto (2006) in turn addresses. The first two are the strength of the elicited emotional response—a factor that is not intense enough with bowling spares and strikes—and the time allowed for expressions to unfold. The third and most important aspect of the study was the type of smile elicited in the social context, something that Kraut and Johnson (1979) had failed to distinguish.

Matsumoto determines two types of smiles: the Duchenne smile and the non-Duchenne smile; the former is associated with enjoyment and the latter is associated with pleasantry or social convenience even though the person does not feel positive emotions. While Ruiz-Belda et al (2003) uses the FACS, which detects the muscle movements associated with these smiles, they were not differentiated. In order to isolate photos or victory, Willingham took pictures from the gold and bronze matches (Matsumoto, 2006), the most emotionally intense matches as they both occur at the margin; the former wins the first place while the latter made the cut for a medal. Negative emotions of defeat were searched for in silver medal winners and athletes who placed fifth. Again, as aforementioned, it is important to distinguish the timing of emotions, as the first expressions upon completing a match are often the most instinctual and natural ones.

Thirteen out of 14 gold medalists and 18 out of 16 bronze medalists smiled for a total of 31 smiles; of those 31 smiles, 29 were Duchenne and 24 were open-mouthed. In the defeat silver medalists, none smiled and 1 of the 26 fifth placers smiled. Instead, 43% of silver medalists and 35% of fifth placers showed sadness, 29% and 23% showed nothing (respectively), and 14% and 15% showed contempt (again, respectively). Upon receiving the medal, which is a much more public event than initial expressions, 54 of the 56 athletes smiled.

All 14 gold medalists (12 open-mouthed), 6 silver medalists (out of the 14), and 20 bronze medalists (out of 28) had Duchenne smiles. Cultural differences were tested for, but none were found. In the final situation, the most public of the three, the athletes’ expressions were taken on the podium. Again, all the gold medalists smiled; only 9 silver medalists of the 14 smiled (only 5 of these were uncontrolled, of which 3 were controlled Duchenne); and 26 bronze medalists of the 28 smiled (13 of which were open-mouthed and Duchenne).

Interestingly in this last scenario, cultural differences was evident: gold and bronze medalists from North America-Western Europe and East Asia were much more prone to displaying Duchenne smiles (96%) as opposed to gold and bronze medalists from other countries (47%). This study of facial expressions further reinforces the notion of universal emotions. Because no other emotion other than the Duchenne smile was prominent in these expressions of victory, the data suggests that it may be the only facial marker of the joy of victory (Matsumoto, 2006).

Matsumoto then proposed an evolutionary reason why this may be the case along the lines of behavioral ecology: facial expressions provide rapid means of communication, and it may not have been absolutely adaptively necessary to communicate various emotions of enjoyment. However, while this last point is highly speculative, the data that Matsumoto provides for universal facial expressions, which were displayed most prominently in more private settings but still detectable in more public ones using FACS, is very thorough and convincing.

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