In his groundbreaking research, Paul Ekman, an American Psychologist pioneered the study of facial expressions and created a montage of more than 10,000 different expressions.
He showed facial photographs to people in twenty different western cultures and eleven different isolated and pre-literate African groups. Results indicated that 95% of western respondents and 92% of African respondents were able to identify happy expressions; disgust and contempt showed similar findings.
In general, there are seven different facial expressions that correspond to distinct universal facial emotions:
- Happiness: Raising and lowering of mouth corners, cheeks raised, and muscles around the eyes are tightened.
- Sadness: lowering of mouth corners and raising an inner portion of brows.
- Surprise: Arching of brows, eyelids pulled up and sclera exposed, mouth open.
- Fear: Brows arched and pulled together, eyes wide open, mouth slightly open.
- Disgust: Eyebrows lowered, upper lip raised, nose wrinkled, cheeks raised.
- Anger: Brows lowered, eyes bulging, lips pressed firmly.
- Rest: none of the above. Well-honed interpersonal skills are non-negotiable for anyone in a client- or patient-facing role.
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