It has been widely researched and assumed since the work of American Psychologist Paul Ekman in the 1970’s,  that human facial expressions are universal. That is, no matter where you grow up and who you encounter, you will always be able to recognise the six basic human emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger and disgust on the face of another.
 Ekman famously found that tribespeople in Papua New Guinea, having never been in contact with Westerners before, were able to recognise facial expressions from photographs. From this he concluded that these facial expressions must be universal.
 Also interesting to note is that Ekman furthered his research into what he termed  ‘microexpressions’ and other verbal signs, which he said could detect lying. He claimed through this he was able to tell that Clinton was not telling the full truth about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky.
 New research from England,however, by Rachel Jack has found that East Asian research participants frequently confuse fear for surprise and disgust for anger. The researchers noticed that whilst Caucasian participants look at all facial features for cues, Asian participants focus on the eyes. 
 Jack explains that this does not mean that people from East Asian countries don’t notice facial expressions of fear and disgust, but that they may be perceived and conveyed in a different way. She notes that in East Asian cultures showing negative emotions  in public is usually avoided. Perhaps people have learnt to pay close attention to eyes to try to find emotional clues?
 Interestingly, the East Asians’ focus on eyes can even be seen in their ’emoticons’. In the West we are used to seeing ‘happy’, ‘sad’ and ‘surprise’ virtually expressed like this:

: )     : (      : o

 Asian emoticons for ‘happy’, ‘sad’ and ‘surprise’ focus more on the eyes instead of the mouth and look like this:

(^_^)    (T_T)   (*_*)


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