Your face is supposed to
freely convey your emotions.
A primal mode of communication
Humans have invented language, and they are very proud of it.
They talk so much that they've ended up abandoning more fundamental methods of communication such as; touching, gestures, eye contact and facial expressions.
These fundamental modes of expression can convey more information, faster than speech can, but they can also express messages that cannot be transmitted by language.
Since their skin is so supple and not yet attached to the skull, fetuses can accomplish facial expressions that no adult can do.
Even if no one can see, the fetus is continuously conveying its emotions through facial expressions and gestures.
Adults do the same, and their face is set into motion just by thinking about something, even if no one is around.
© Lael in Alabama
Expressing emotions while sleeping.
Primates are facial expression champions
Primates have evolved away from scent signals towards visual ones; so, they use their faces extensively to communicate.
They have developed their facial muscles more than any other type of animal.
These muscles are controlled directly by the nervous system and express their emotions.
This is why facial expressions represent the most natural mode of communication.
© Ryan Summers
© Matthew Hoelscher
© Ryan Summers
Facial expressions are also cross-culturally understood.
Several species have hairless regions, eyebrows or colors to improve intelligibility.
Humans are apes, and they are experts at making faces.
A window on your feelings
Facial expressions happen almost instantaneously.
In fact, they occur faster than your brain can react, and can express feelings you may later want to hide.
The person relating with you knows how you feel faster than with any other means of communication.
Just one split second glance can give you a good idea of a person's emotional state.
Often, words wouldn't even do justice to the complexity and strength of the feelings you can express with your face.
Involuntary and voluntary expressions
Since we don't control the first moments of our reaction to events, you may not be satisfied with the facial expressions you put out.
They reflect your true feelings; but the way you really feel about something may not be acceptable to the people you're relating with.
So you rapidly change your expression after your conscious brain takes control.
We can talk about:
Involuntary expressions; Occurring immediately after the stimulus.
Voluntary expressions; Afterwards.
Boomerang facial expressions
Whenever you voluntarily put out a facial expression, it comes back to you.
The link in your brain between emotions and expressions is so strong that it can function the other way around.
You can observe that simply putting an expression on your face will actually cause the associated emotion to appear inside of you.
You can use this phenomenon constructively by displaying positive expressions.
This also works with others, and you'll find out that by showing a smiley face, you get lots of smiles in return.
How many facial expressions are there?
There is an infinite number of facial expressions.
Do you always smile the same way?
Do you present the same face every time you're happy?
No! Every smile you produce is different because the feelings you express are different.
Your emotions and reactions to each situation are distinct; so you express them distinctively.
You have as many happy faces as there are happy events.
Can you count your feelings?
Researchers have often tried to define and number the various emotions we feel.
They use simple words to represent intricate psychological and physiological reactions.
Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions - Wikipedia
General terms to represent complex feelings.
There is an infinite number of emotions because there is an infinite number of situations that generate them.
In fact, understanding what a person is conveying with a particular facial expression depends on several additional factors; such as the context and the relationship between the individuals.
Facial expressions form a complete language
I'm a very sociable person who meets hundreds of strangers every day.
I generally don't have to talk to these people to relate with them.
I use eye contact, facial expressions, gestures and postures.
I find I can express myself better and faster this way.
I consider that facial expression form a complex and complete language.
However, many humans are social and communication Peewees; so they have problems expressing themselves that way.
© Shelley Glapion
© Alex Proimos
© Roseli A. Bakar
© Lawrence Whittemore
© Torrey Wiley
© Jim Sneddon
© Bart Heird
© Alex Motrenko
© Donnie Ray Jones
No one has taught these kids how to do these expressions.
Emotions don't go on and off instantaneously.
They linger and simmer down slowly inside of you.
Your facial expressions show this.
If you're mad, it may take hours before you calm down.
During this time, you will still express other feelings as you live them, but they will all be tainted by your being mad.
An observant human, mostly one who knows you, will read all these subtleties on your face.
© Jorge de Sousa Costa
Both sides of the face often display different expressions.
In reality, we often voluntarily express several feelings simultaneously.
There is a limit to the complexity, but three or four different emotions can be effectively presented.
This explains why facial expressions are so diversified and cannot be reduced to a single meaning.
Stone-faces are antisocial
You have a neutral, straight, blank, everyday face that you return to when your brain is idle.
As we will see below, that face is not neutral, nor blank, because your facial features reflect all the expressions you've held in the past.
Keep that stone-face for yourself and make sure nobody sees it.
When you're in society, showing a stone-face is saying that you don't care about others.
Put an expression on your face
© Tim Green
Blank faces are rude, aggressive, arrogant and conceited.
Showing an empty, bare visage is like cutting yourself from society.
It shows a refusal to relate; that can be taken as indifference, fear, contempt, vanity, disdain, aggressiveness, ...
It is also an indication that nothing is happening inside your head.
It is disturbing to see actors, celebrities and ordinary people resort to cosmetic injections; since the toxin paralyzes their facial muscles, destroying their expressiveness.
Are you too important to relate with the people you meet?
The importance of eye contact and expressions in society
In the wild, many animals will avoid eye-contact in several situations.
Looking at someone else in the eyes may be taken as an aggressive gesture; so it is best for them to look elsewhere.
Even among a same species, lower rank individuals will shy away from looking at their leaders directly into the eyes.
This is a submissive behavior and civilized humans should not act that way.
I can look at you in the eyes, but don't you dare.
Establishing visual contact with the people you cross in society is very important.
It informs others of your immediate intentions:
Are you gonna go left, right or straight?
Do you see me or are you gonna bump into me?
© Seven Morris
Don't go around society pretending you don't exist.
You want to be part of society.
Developing social skills takes time.
Don't go through life ignoring the people you encounter.
Stop relating with just your family and friends.
Show your face and relate with everyone you meet.
Theories about the history of the smile
In the wild, showing your teeth indicates that you're ready for a fight and that you're not intimidated by the other.
© Claudio Gennari
© Rod Waddington
The evolution of the smile: Part 1
About 30 millions years ago, in the primate family, it became a custom to show their teeth, but in a clenched position.
Two reasons have been put forward:
● Since primates are peaceful animals, presenting a non-aggressive, calm and harmless face to others kept them away from confrontational situations.
● Clenched teeth were also used as a sign of submission by individuals of a lesser rank when they met dominant members of the group.
© Tim Simpson
The expression took a different meaning for each species, but for some, such as the Barbary macaques, it came to express well-being and happiness.
The evolution of the smile: Part 2
About 7 millions years ago, in the chimpanzee family, the first bipedal humans appeared.
The early human mothers were facing a new problem.
From day one, primate babies stay in continuous skin-to-skin contact with their mom.
Their ancestors had always carried their young on their back while they were foraging for food and going from place to place.
But, with their upright standing position, the human mothers had to put their baby on the ground while they were gathering edibles.
It is thought that the babies reacted with a repressed cry, attempting with their face to seduce their mother and stop her from leaving them.
© Adam Baker
The evolution of the smile: Part 3
The smile has been part of human culture for millions of years.
There is a direct link between your brain and your facial muscles that makes you express your happiness by smiling.
It shows your well-being and your social receptiveness.
However, who do we see smiling the most?
The lives of contemporary humans are so boring that they gradually stop smiling as they age.
© Max Talbot-Minkin
© Margaret Woods-Moore
© David Horne
© Tobias Myrstrand Leander
© Aikawa Ke
© Chris Cowan
© Grant MacDonald
© Yoshihide Nomura
© Ryan and Sarah Deeds
© _FuRFuR_ (Sébastien Rofidal)
© Rakesh JV
© Guille Mueses
© Steve Evans
The smile is the distinctive expression that defines humanity.
If you're not smiling, what's wrong with you?
A smile represents happiness, well-being, good humor, peace, ..., and a will to relate with others.
Aren't those the feelings you want to experience and express at all times?
Even when you're alone, you're supposed to smile most of the time.
Taken by a smiling macaque.
© The macaque on the picture
What a charming individual!
If you're not smiling,
there is something wrong with you and your life.
Some will argue that their life isn't easy and that their situation and obligations make their days a drudgery.
If that is the case; change your life.
On the other hand, you could simply change your attitude towards it.
Putting a smile on your face will have a refreshing and rejuvenating effect on the way you see things.
By not smiling in society, you are depriving yourself of the best tool you have to relate with others.
Become a member of humanity; smile!
Stuck with your past on your face
Human grooming proves that your facial features are only folds in the skin of your face.
All the facial expressions you make during your lifetime get etched into your face.
How many hours do you spend brooding, smiling, being sad, ...
It all adds up, so the result is a mix of your most frequent attitudes.
Expressions held for long periods or with greater intensity will be more engraved.
As you age, your skin becomes folded in a manner that always displays those emotions, even though you possibly aren't feeling them anymore.
© Jan Truter
Your face becomes the sum of all your expressions.
Judging people by their looks
You've probably been told not to judge people by their looks.
It makes sense not to discriminate others because of their appearance.
However, engraved facial features don't lie and they give you an adequate portrait of someone's past and personality.
For me, facial expressions are more reliable and truthful than what a person says.
I can detect foul play or bad intentions just by looking at a person's face.
When evil traits become sculpted into someone's features, after being that way all their life, I think it's normal to beware.
Founder of psychoanalysis
With just one glance, you can judge that this individual is arrogant, irritable, pretentious, superior, ..., but you can also discern that he has no empathy and a poor understanding of others feelings.
How expressive should your face be?
It should be like a blank screen; not one with a faded image already on it.
All those folds on your face cripple your facial muscles and prevent you from expressing your feelings accurately and satisfyingly.
Your facial muscles will slowly be reduced to immobility.
On a groomed face, emotions appear with more precision and subtleness; unhindered by any previous folding.
Your face becomes a mirror of your thoughts and everyone can see how you feel.