facial expressions

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The startled expression of the widow Bolte - Wilhelm Busch 1865:
Max and Moritz
Facial expression: disgust
Facial expression: anger

When the facial expressions (including the face or facial expressions ) are the visible movements face designated surface. In most cases, an overall impression is created from individual facial expressions, as the individual movements of the facial muscles take place in fractions of a second. Facial expressions are part of the expressive behavior of humans as well as capable animals. In humans , it is an important part of non-verbal communication along with other behaviors and actions such as gestures .

The facial expression is essentially based on the contraction of the facial muscles and is produced especially by the eyes and mouth as the most mobile parts of the face. There are about three thousand variations.

More detailed determination

Facial expressions have a special meaning in the following areas:

  1. it is an expression of a certain emotionality , sometimes also intentionality, and thus becomes a fundamental, but often involuntary type of communication
  2. it has an expressive and appeal function and is therefore the first form of communication between child and parents
  3. it provides information about individual characteristics of a person based on their person-specific movement (self-dynamics).

Facial communication and interaction are socially more meaningful than the more conspicuous and easier to document language suggests.

Examples from the European cultural area

In European cultures means about

  1. the forehead to wrinkle: reprimand , thoughtfulness respect of what is said ,
  2. pushing the lower lip forward and (reinforcing) rolling your eyes : disbelief or skepticism ,
  3. Raise your eyebrows: astonishment
  4. to smile one-sided : ridicule ,
  5. wrinkling the nose and puffing up the nostrils: disgust or disgust ,
  6. To stare at someone fixedly (possibly with the success that he averts his gaze, colloquially: to 'stare down' at him): humiliation or even threat
  7. to “petrify” the traits: rejection, increasing social distance
  8. (in very traditional Catholic milieus in southern Europe, for example) to look up in front of altars so much that one only sees the white: adoration (hence the expression "adore someone").
  9. someone (more or less smiling ) to grin , so the saying good face (to evil game) make.

Word environment

Etymologically , facial expressions derive from the ancient Greek μιμικός mimikós "concerning the mimes, like a mimes". The slowly obsolete mime stands for actors . It is therefore understandable that the verb mimen is occasionally used interchangeably with theater play . Colloquially, it is used synonymously for an exaggerated representation. Example: “He pretends to be sick” (in the sense of: “He pretends to be sick”).

In some clubs, facial expressions are a highlight of the annual festivities, in which events from club life are caricatured for members and exaggerated by pantomime .

Film and theater

Essential considerations on facial expressions go back to Béla Balázs , the first film theorist of the Weimar Republic and his epoch-making work The Visible Man (1924).

See also


  • Petra Löffler: Affect images. A media history of facial expressions. Transcript, Bielefeld 2004, ISBN 3-89942-267-8 .
  • James A. Russell, Jose Miguel Fernandez-Dols (Eds.): The Psychology of Facial Expression. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 978-0-521-58796-9 .

Web links

Wiktionary: facial expression  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Facial expressions  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Facial expressions  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. youtube.com