Facial expressions and identification of the emotions

Facial expressions and identification of the emotions

The speed at which we produce facial expressions plays an essential role in identifying emotions in other individuals, as demonstrated in a recent study at the University of Birmingham.

The research revealed that people tend to produce sad faces slowly.  In contrast, happy and angry expressions are made more rapidly.

Our ability to develop judgments about the facial expressions of other individuals is closely related to the speeds at which those expressions are produced and to how we would make those expressions ourselves.

The researchers asked people to create facial expressions directed to a camera and tracked their facial movements using an open-source software called OpenFace. This technique permitted the determination of the speed of movements in regions of the face, which is known to be important in generating expressions.

OpenFace Web Demo

In this experiment, when the act of expression was speeded up, the performance of people got a better recognition of it as happy or angry. When it was slowed down,  they more accurately identified it as sad.

This research can potentially be useful for the early diagnosis of autism and Parkinson’s disease and in a range of artificial intelligence applications, such as facial recognition software.


Sowden, S., Schuster, B. A., Keating, C. T., Fraser, D. S., & Cook, J. L. (2021). The role of movement kinematics in facial emotion, expression production and recognition. Emotion.

Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash


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