Facial expressions are subtle and the slightest change in the position of an eyebrow can change the entire meaning of the body language being displayed. What’s more, humans are very good at reading facial expressions (and faking them) – far more so than any other aspect of body language. (Continued at the bottom of this page)
Continued from top of page …
Why do we have facial expressions? One popular theory is that complex verbal communication is actually a fairly recent evolutionary advance. In fact, it is so recent a development that only one species on the planet actually has it for sure. (No we don’t believe that dolphins have a secret language taught to them by aliens and film producers).
To put this into perspective we need to think of evolutionary time as a twenty four period with now being the end of the 24th hour. If we use this analogy then speech as we know it occurred in the last second of the last hour or 23:59:59.9 to be precise. The real question is how did humans communicate up until that moment? The answer is with grunts, gestures and facial expressions.
It’s therefore no surprise that we still use them. Today, our facial expressions are the equivalent of a perpetual PowerPoint display of our emotions. A huge amount of communication using facial expressions needs no words at all. A smile to say: “I’m pleased” or “I’m happy” or even “I like you” is enough.
These expressions are more than a statement of a person’s emotional state they occur to reinforce or contradict what is being said. They are just as often used to provide others with feedback about the communication being received. A child being “told-off” looks down to acknowledge to the parent that he or she understands the communication and now feels shame. Two-way communication is taking place at many levels.
Sometimes facial expressions are simply automatic responses to protect the delicate organs of the face. Eyes narrow when threatened and a person will wrinkle their nose in disgust in an attempt to keep from inhaling a bad smell that might be dangerous. As stated before, the science behind body language is fascinating but this website is mainly dedicated to the recognition of body language and what the individual signals and expressions mean.