Project cost ($):
Additional time is needed to recruit assistants, participants, and develop pictures (if needed).
How well can you tell the emotional state of another person just by looking at their facial expressions? You may be surprised to find it more difficult than expected, in particular for some emotions such as surprise or fear. In this science project, you will have participants view photographs of people with a variety of facial expressions and have them identify the emotion they are conveying.
Identify the emotional states of others.
Historically, psychologists have considered facial expressions a gauge to how a person feels inside? a reflection of his or her emotional state. This theory has been challenged with new research that shows that there is little or no correlation between facial expressions and the emotional state of a person. Most researchers do agree that facial expressions serve as a form of communication. When someone smiles or frowns, it sends a clear message to others. A point of contention is whether the facial expressions reveal to the observer the emotional state of the person, or do facial expressions of the person merely serve to elicit a desired response from the observer.
facial expressions, emotions
Conducting the experiment
The argument that facial expression serves to elicit a response from the observer may have merit from an evolutionary standpoint. In primates, smiling is actually a display of threat, intended to warn other primates to keep away. Take time to bring your awareness to your own facial expressions. Do your facial expressions accurately reflect how you feel inside, or are you trying to elicit a response from others?
Questions & Answers
How many muscles are in the human face?
Make it Your Own
Repeat the experiment by testing for gender differences. Use two sets of photographs, males and females.
"What is in the face" from the American Psychological Association at http://www.apa.org/monitor/jan00/sc1.aspx