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Origins of human facial expressions

Posted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 10:07 pm
by jorgy
I was listening to NPR this morning and heard the following story: ... d=91680864

It talks about researchers looking into the origin of facial expressions, why they are similar across humans all over the world, and what are the biological and environmental conditions that have molded them.

Just one of the tidbits from the article: when one is afraid, nostrils tend to flare, to get as much scent of danger as possible, to see what it is and where it is coming from.

Maybe we can animate better when we know why those facial expressions exist.


Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:09 am
by Bones3D
I'm not convinced facial expressions have an "origin". More likely, they're simply a by-product of our reactions to various sensory input.

What probably does have an "origin" is the connotations we associate with them. Most of the simple ones are probably primitive comparisons to ourselves in varying states (such as wincing in pain). More complex ones, the ones we intentionally create (like winking) are probably almost as varied as our speech patterns and bodily gestures throughout different cultures.

Also, our individual personalities can play into how we interpret certain expressions, where in some cases a seemingly benign gesture from one person can trigger a malevolent response from others. (IE... bullying the nerdy guy for being nerdy.) It could be that at a primitive level, such benign gesturing signifies an element of weakness.

This almost delves directly into psychology itself. It might be worth researching some of the stuff Sigmund Freud theorized to gain more insight into how our expressions affect those around us.

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:26 am
by human
Bones3D wrote:It might be worth researching some of the stuff Sigmund Freud theorized to gain more insight into how our expressions affect those around us.
One problem.

In order to have science, you must have both hypothesis and experiment.

Sigmund Freud was 100% hypothesis, 0% experiment. That would make him, not to put too fine a point on it, nothing more than a crackpot.

Using Freudian psychoanalysis to explain human behavior is like using astrology to calculate the rotation speed of a neutron star--one has no more basis in objective fact than the other.

The reason Freudian psychology was so insanely successful was because it was able to put a respectable cloak over the period's most rabid prejudices.

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 2:53 am
by synthsin75
Freudian or not, all psychology is of the same pseudoscience. It's all a bag of ready-made excuses, just as Freud in his day. Take your pick. Socially unacceptable? Maybe OCD, or ADD, or any of the hundreds of crutches.

All just excuses why a person can't (won't) take responsibilty for their own behavior.

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:31 am
by jahnocli
Whoa -- that seems a bit harsh! I know that some very hard-nosed business people in the US started using psychological techniques to sell products in the sixties -- and they worked. AND these techniques got copied by ad agencies around the world. AND they are still with us. So it can't all be bull.

Posted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 12:23 pm
by synthsin75
You're right jahnocli, but those bits are closely gaurded advertising secrets. (At least the bits that actually work) The majority of the psychobabble the hapless public is subjected to is of the variety I mentioned.