Cultural Differences In Facial Expressiveness Essay

2170 words - 9 pages

“One cannot not communicate“, (Watzlawick et al. 1967) because every behaviour, even if it is silent and may occur below the level of consciousness, reveals information about oneself. It remains doubtful, though, how far the disclosed information matches the way it got received. Even if non verbal communication is performed advisedly, may the sender always rest assured that his message reached the receiver correctly? In the light of intercultural differences it is highly dubiously. However, according to Charles Darwin (1872/1998), regarding facial expressions it is not: “[...] the same state of mind is expressed throughout the world with remarkable uniformity“

In his work The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals Darwin claims to have found out that the six most relevant feelings (happy, surprise, fear, disgust, anger, and sad) are reflected identically by facial expressions throughout the whole world, since we all share the same ancestors. This theory was considered as assured over many years. However, Rachael E. Jack (2012) challenges Darwin's statement by submitting that

“Cultural specificity in the facial expression models therefore
likely reflects differences in the facial expression signals transmitted
and encountered by observers in their social environment.“

Against the background of this, the present paper is in particular concerned with the cross-cultural similarities and differences of facial epressiveness, having the Asian and Western Culture in contemplation.

Verbal communication without moving any body parts is easily done, whereas speaking without allowing the face to move is rather impossible. Therefore, one can assume that facial expressiveness, besides speech, is the most common and important way of revealing feelings and present information or, at least in some situations, it my even be more important, regarding mental experiences, since facial expressiveness is the speech's companion, revealing feelings, people do not want to talk about or can not express verbally. In other words:

“Even though the human species has acquired the powerful capabilities of a verbal language, the role of facial expressions in person-to-person interactions remains substantial.“ (face-and-emotion 2009)

Facial expressions are generated by muscles, which are contracted in different angles and strengths. 43 muscles have been identified in the face, however, it is possible to have fewer (Sherwood, 2011). Therefore, it is presumptuous to generalise how many facial muscles humans possess. Not least because facial muscles are, contrary to other muscles, only connected to skin and not to the bone. A research study from the University of Portsmouth agrees to Susann Sherwood by stating there are five core muscles which are used for eliciting the six standard expressions mentioned above, moreover, further outcome of this research is that some people are even missing 40 per cent of the indicated 43 muscles. These people tend to look...

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