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Understanding Body Language

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Facial Expressions
Facial Expressions

Facial expressions can convey a great deal of nonverbal information.

Photo by ZoneCreative - iStockPhoto

Think for a moment about how much a person is able to convey with just a facial expression. A smile can indicate approval or happiness, while a frown can signal disapproval or unhappiness. In some cases, our facial expressions may reveal our true feelings about a particular situation. While you may say that you are feeling fine, the look on your face may tell people otherwise.

Emotions Expressed Through Facial Expressions

Just a few examples of emotions that can be expressed via facial expressions include:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Anger
  • Surprise
  • Disgust
  • Fear
  • Confusion
  • Excitement
  • Desire
  • Contempt

Universal Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are also among the most universal forms of body language. The expressions used to convey fear, anger, sadness, and happiness are similar throughout the world. Researcher Paul Ekman has found support for the universality of a variety of facial expressions tied to particular emotions including joy, anger, fear, surprise, and sadness.

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