Spontaneous Facial Expressions Reveal New Action Units for the Sad Experiences


Facial expressions related to sadness are a universal signal of nonverbal communication. Although results of many psychology studies have shown that drooping of the lip corners, raising of the chin, and oblique eyebrow movements (a combination of inner brow raising and brow lowering) express sadness, no report has described a study elucidating facial expression characteristics under well-controlled circumstances with people actually experiencing the emotion of sadness itself. Therefore, spontaneous facial expressions associated with sadness remain unclear. We conducted this study to accumulate important findings related to spontaneous facial expressions of sadness. We recorded the spontaneous facial expressions of a group of participants as they experienced sadness during an emotion-elicitation task. This task required a participant to recall neutral and sad memories while listening to music. We subsequently conducted a detailed analysis of their sad and neutral expressions using the Facial Action Coding System. The prototypical facial expressions of sadness in earlier studies were not observed when people experienced sadness as an internal state under non-social circumstances. By contrast, they expressed tension around the mouth, which might function as a form of suppression. Furthermore, results show that parts of these facial actions are not only related to sad experiences but also to other emotional experiences such as disgust, fear, anger, and happiness. This study revealed the possibility that new facial expressions contribute to the experience of sadness as an internal state.

Journal of Nonverbal Behavior.
Shushi Namba
Shushi Namba
Associate Professor

My research interests include distributed facial expression,computational modeling and programmable matter.