<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="65001"%> Facial expressions. Body language.

The language of facial expressions



Raised eyebrows or a shake of the head can mean different things in different parts of the world. But six facial expressions on your face can be understood everywhere.

The first two universal facial expressions are JOY...

theatre mask joy

...and SADNESS

theatre mask sadness
What are the other facial expressions understood everywhere?
Fear cartoon fearful facial expression Anger cartoon face - angry
Surprise emotion - surprise Disgust facial expression - disgust
Joy and sadness, together with fear and anger are the four most basic human emotions. Surprise and disgust may be secondary, but they're recognised by everyone.

The facial expressions may be mite exaggerated here. Even, heaven forbid, not totally accurate!

All the same, these 'six basic facial expressions' are taken from research by the anthropologist Paul Ekman. There may be small inherited differences, but we all know these six expressions. We can usually sense if someone is trying to fake them. The genuine versions are not under conscious control.


Body language - and in particular, 'face language', communicates more powerfully than words. Messages pass between us silently - and for the most part, we don't even know they're there.

Have you ever caught yourself smiling, frowning or even making gestures with your hands while you're talking on the phone? Unless you're on a video call, the person you're talking to can't see you, but you do it anyway. In fact it's quite hard to talk with a completely expressionless face.

Hence the rise of emoticons for email and texting. :o) Like them or not, emoticons and smileys help to get a feeling across when words might be misunderstood.

You'd be surprised how easy it is to draw facial expressions - whether for cartoons, symbols, emoticons or fun. It's revealing too. Find out why a sad emoticon doesn't really look like a sad face. Make an angry face (if you must). Find out what really makes a smiley smile.

Frightened face . Sad face . Angry face . Smiley face . Drawing expressions . Draw a face

(c) Valerie Beeby 2000 - 2014