Human faces do not only reflect individuality and personality. They also reveal a person`s state of mind and inner feelings. Faces are considered to be a mirror of the soul and to speak louder than words. When you look at a face, you can tell instantly and intuitively whether or not it is a human face and whether it is a person you know. People are experts at reading the emotions of others from their faces. Although there is some degree of variation between contexts and cultures, basic emotions like happiness, surprise, anger, sadness, disgust or fear are revealed by the same facial expressions. You are able to read from a facial expression what mood a person is in, whether he or she is happy or feeling afraid, even if you do not know the person. Facial expressions also support the distinction between genuine and fake emotions. The perception of faces and the identification of mood and emotions through facial expressions are related to brain areas that are highly specialized for these functions. The analysis of human faces and their evaluation is highly efficient and takes less than second.
The human face plays a central role in social communication. The recognition of emotions connects people with each other. Communication and exchange in social situations is dependent on the correct assessment of the emotional state of others and appropriate responses. Specialised brain systems enable us to put ourselves in the position of other people's feelings and to empathise with their situation, i.e. to feel how the other person must feel. When living together in groups, empathy for the inner world of others is a fundamental feature of successful cooperation. Last but not least, looking at other people's faces has an effect on one's own emotions - if you are smiled at, you automatically smile back. More complex or social emotions such as pride or shame which are shaped by the cultural context of a person are particularly dependent upon the ability to understand the perspective of others, i.e. to understand the effect of one's own actions on other people.
Prof. Dr. Irene Daum
Curator FACES OF US