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Basics of Facial Expressions and Human Emotions

Updated on November 26, 2010

Aren’t you fascinated by human emotions and especially facial expressions? I am. I’ve been fascinated by all sorts of psychology stuff for a while, but what really caught my attention was the fact that we’re actually capable of spotting any emotion in everyone’s face.

Body language in general is a fascinating subject, however we need to learn more about facial expressions if we want to pass to pass to the “next level”. In this article I will present you the basics of facial expressions and the several emotions that we are capable of transmitting. Can you spot all the emotions? Let’s see.


Eyes damp; eyebrows slightly pushed together; trembling lower lip; chin possibly wrinkled; head slightly tilted down.


Eyes wide, closed or pointing down; raised eyebrows; mouth open or corners turned down; chin pulled in; head down, white face.


Eyes wide and staring; eyebrows pulled down (especially in middle); wrinkled forehead; flared nostrils; mouth flattened or clenched teeth bared; jutting chin, red face.


Mouth smiling (open or closed); possible laughter; crows-feet wrinkles at sides of sparkling eyes; slightly raised eyebrows; head level.


Eyes cast down and possibly damp or tearful; head down; lips pinched; head down or to the side.


Eyes staring; mouth corners turned down; nose turned in sneer; chin jutting.


Eyes wide open with dilated pupils; slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly parted or puckered or smiling; head tilted forward.


Steady gaze of eyes at item of interest (may be squinting); slightly raised eyebrows; lips slightly pressed together; head erect or pushed forward.


Eyes looking away; face generally immobile; corners of mouth turned down or lips pulled to the side; head propped up with hand.


Eyes wide open; eyebrows raised high; mouth dropped wide open with consequent lowered chin; head held back or tilted to side


Eyebrows tilted outwards (lowered outer edges); mouth either tilted down or smiling; head tilted.


Eyes and head turned away; nostrils flared; nose twisted in sneer; mouth closed, possibly with tongue protruding; chin jutting.


Eyes and head turned down; eyebrows held low; skin blushing red.


Eyes in extended gaze and possibly damp; eyebrows slightly pulled together in middle or downwards at edges; mouth turned down at corners; head tilted to side.


Relaxed facial muscles and steady eye gaze. Perhaps mouth turned up slightly at sides in gentle smile.

Dr. Paul Ekman

Dr. Paul Ekman (1934, Washington DC) is a pioneer psychologist in the field of human emotions and facial expressions. In a recent study Ekman was considered one of the greatest psychologists in the 20th century.

He has received many awards for his work and he retired in 2004 as a psychologist of the Psychiatry University of California, San Francisco.

This amazing psychologist even released two great software programs, that anybody can get and train their facial expressions spotting:

Ekman's work on Amazon

Emotions Revealed, Second Edition: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life
Emotions Revealed, Second Edition: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life

Emotions Revealed, Second Edition: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life.


Lie to Me

Lie to Me is a TV show based on Paul Ekman’s work. Tim Roth stars as Dr. Cal Lightman, a character clearly inspired in Dr. Paul Ekman. Dr. Lightman and his “Lightman Group” main job is to work on the facial expressions and body language field and engaging in many cases to uncover the truth. Sportsmen, politicians, nobody is safe from Dr. Lightman’s amazing sense.


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