Reading emotions and faces

Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg, when dis­cussing dif­fer­ent Frontal Lobe’s func­tions in his great Wis­dom Para­dox book, says that “Exec­u­tive intel­li­gence” includes “the abil­i­ty to pen­e­trate oth­er people’s minds, and that starts with an inter­est in oth­er people’s minds.”

And what do we call a win­dow into oth­er peo­ple’s emotions?

A face.

braintop Paul Ekman has con­duct­ed exten­sive research on iden­ti­fy­ing emo­tions through facial expres­sions. As part of that research, and as part of the pow­er of dis­ci­pline and train­ing, he learned how to con­scious­ly manip­u­late 42 facial mus­cles, includ­ing many that in most of us are beyond our con­trol, and even awareness.

Based on pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary research, he found that there are sev­en emo­tions expressed in the face in uni­ver­sal­ly con­sis­tent ways:
— Sadness
— Anger
— Surprise
— Fear
— Enjoyment
— Disgust
— Contempt

Even more inter­est­ing: accord­ing to his research, feel­ings and facial expres­sions influ­ence each oth­er. This is, not only a sad per­son will nat­u­ral­ly look sad, but a per­son who inten­tion­al­ly smiles will feel more con­tent than a per­son who doesn’t.

Ques­tion: from left to right, top then down, what uni­ver­sal feel­ing does each face indicate?


More brain teas­er games:


  1. Pat on October 6, 2006 at 7:39

    Anger Fear Surprise
    Con­tempt Enjoy­ment Sadness

  2. Alvaro on October 8, 2006 at 8:39

    Very good, Pat!

    Anger Fear Surprise
    Con­tempt Enjoy­ment Sadness

  3. Chad W Smith on October 17, 2007 at 9:26

    I think the face you are call­ing “Con­tempt” looks more like “Dis­gust” to me. But the mean­ings of those words could be con­sid­ered similar.

    I mean, if I am dis­gust­ed by some­one or some­thing — then — at that moment — I am view­ing them with contempt.

  4. Mitch on January 6, 2008 at 4:41

    anger, fear, surprise
    dis­gust, enjoy­ment, contempt

  5. Alex on January 8, 2008 at 3:20

    fury or anger,

    shocked sur­prise with fear,

    nice sur­prise or pre­tend sur­prise or con­vey­ing inter­est in conversation,

    dis­gust (she seems to be say­ing “ewww!”)


    sad but only sur­face deep sad.

  6. yahobahne on January 21, 2008 at 7:05

    1. anger or contempt
    2. fear
    3. surprise
    4. disgust
    5. eno­joy­ment and
    6. sadness

  7. Aaron on March 23, 2008 at 10:55

    Anger, fear, suprised, dis­qust­ed, hap­py =D, and sad :(

  8. Julie on September 28, 2008 at 5:27

    anger, fear, sur­prise, dis­gust or contempt,enjoyment, sadness

  9. Susie on March 1, 2009 at 12:46

    I read them as anger, fear, sur­prise, dis­gust, enjoyment,and sadness.
    I equate the face that I rec­og­nize as dis­guest with a voice say­ing, “Ewwww.”

  10. Carlyn Carter on May 19, 2009 at 1:33

    I thought the METT labeled them hap­pi­ness instead of enjoy­ment and dis­gust instead of contempt…

  11. michelle on October 22, 2009 at 1:52

    1. I am so angry
    2. I am com­plete­ly mortified
    3. I’m pre­tend­ing to lis­ten but real­ly I am not.
    4. I smell some­thing funny
    5. I am so total­ly like, bored.

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SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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