Emotion, Expression, Explanation
Edited By András Benedek and Kristof Nyiri
Face to Face: Towards a New Sincerity
← 242 | 243 → Face to Face: Towards a New Sincerity
Daniel L. Golden
Ethologists tell us that facial expressions have distinct meanings already among chimpanzees. One of the earliest illustrated accounts of the phenomena is the diary of a Russian amateur scientist, N. N. Ladygina-Kohts.1 She raised a chimpanzee in her home in Moscow between 1913 and 1916, and made some very interesting observations comparing the behaviour of the animal with that of her child. The photos on plate B.7.2 present The Eight Typical Facial Expressions of the Chimpanzee, namely “the mimics of excitement, attention, astonishment, disgust, anger, fear, sadness (crying) and joy (laughter)”. These were considered by Ladygina-Kohts as universal characteristics for the whole species, discernible for every ordinary observer without any special preparation, and understandable in terms of being able to identify certain mental contents lying behind the visible expressions.
Her considerations gave birth to the idea that this primordial form of communicating our emotions can be interpreted as a special language, for which we can even build up a kind of vocabulary. Paul Ekman, who was a psychologist at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco, started his experimentations with some photos made about his own facial expressions and trying to give detailed descriptions of them based on the analysis of his facial muscles working.3 The vocabulary titled as FACS: Facial Action Coding System4 was published by Ekman and Wallace V. Friesen in 1978. It promises to categorize “facial behaviors based on the muscles that produce them”. Facial expressions are dismantled into...
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