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Introduction to the DataFace Site: Facial Expressions, Emotion Expressions, Nonverbal Communication, Physiognomy

DataFace is for people who want to know more about the human face, nonverbal communication of mother and child whether they are casual observers or professional analysts of the face. In some respects, everyone knows about faces, because they are the most prominent visual object in our social environment. People who study the face as part of their career, however, encounter quite a long list of unanswered questions and mysteries concerning the face and facial expression. This site highlights some of these questions, and provides answers to some others. You can find information about the permanent features of the face, the transient expressions of the face, the people who study the face and nonverbal communication, and where to find works by these researchers. You can also find information about the relationship of the face to emotion expressions. Other specific topics can be found on the Facets page. To find out more about the DataFace site, see the About DataFace page.

woman's facial expression The expression of the face is a basic mode of nonverbal communication among people. The facial expression of another person is often the basis on which we form significant impressions of such characteristics as friendliness, trustworthiness, and status. The overall expression of the face is a composite of signs from many sources, such as the bony structure, shapes and positions of features, and color and texture of the skin. Facial expressions created by muscular actions have their roots in the earliest ancestors of the human species, but these expressions continually evolve and propagate via both biological and cultural mechanisms. The facial muscles produce the varying facial expressions that convey information about emotion, mood, and ideas. Emotion expressions are one primary result of activity by the facial muscles. This site has information about two scientific tools for studying facial expressions, FACS and FACSAID. You can read about the new version of the FACS Manual, read selections from it, and purchase it on this site.

human skull underlies facial expressionsThe relatively permanent appearance of the face is formed by the shapes and placement of the bones of the skull, the cartilage, physiognomy of a human face and the soft tissues, including the muscles, fat, and skin, of the face, and the facial features they form. All the facial expressions are built upon this foundation of bone and flesh. The consistent appearance of the face underlies our attribution of identity to a person. These characteristics also contribute to the relatively static expression of the face. The permanent facial features are called the physiognomy of the face, especially when they relate to some other personal attribute, such as personality, well-being, or character. The Visage Project enumerates and classifies facial features and retrieves the interpretations that authors and scholars have given to these features. Many controversies, such as the fad of Phrenology and the selection of employees according to facial features, are related to the topic of physiognomy.

masks for emotion expressions
The Greek drama masks associated facial appearance with emotion.
Emotion is a topic frequently raised in discussions of the face. Since the ancient philosophers, the learned and untutored alike have believed that the face assumes appearances characteristic of each of the passions that people experience. Artists such as Le Brun tried to capture these facial expressions in drawings; philosophers such as Aristotle and Stewart speculated on their functions and forms, and biologists such as Darwin speculated on their origins. American psychologists, however, began in the twentieth century to question these traditional perspectives, and it became fashionable to reject both the reality of emotions and any characteristic appearance of the face that might correspond to them. Even today, a few psychologists continue to promote one or another form of this argument, despite the substantial evidence to the contrary that has been adduced in the late 20th century by psychologists, anthropologists, animal biologists, and other scientists. Today, the topic of emotion and its relation to facial expression has re-emerged into prominence in psychological studies. This site provides a survey of the issues and pointers to additional information about emotion.

The DataFace Library contains manuscripts related to the face, emotional expression, nonverbal communication, and facial expressions online at this site, library links for psychological research a multimedia presentation of the effects of facial muscle actions, a graphic atlas of the skull, and a directory of links to online documents about the face and to people who study the face. There are many resources and materials available on the Web relevant to the face and this section provides some pointers to these other sources. You can also purchase books and other products from the Bookstore and help keep DataFace online.

Contents of this site are copyright © 2003 by Joseph C. Hager and/or other copyright holders. Images on this page copyright © Corel Corp. Do not copy.

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