The universal expressions and vocabulary of emotion
A smile carries across language barriers – but might our emotional expressions form a universal language? These sculptures, crafted by ancient American civilisations cut off from ‘western’ cultures, may hold clues. They evoke emotional situations – holding a baby, fighting, or torture – yet human volunteers were asked to identify each statue’s emotional state from its face alone. Their successful spots suggest a set of universal facial expressions which transcend time and cultural boundaries: elation and sadness as well as pain, anger and determination. Elsewhere, scientists studying links between our how we express ourselves and mental well-being find the size of one’s 'positive' or 'negative' emotional vocabulary – the emotive words we use to describe the world – may reflect an underlying, and possibly unnoticed, mood. Perhaps for centuries, clues to someone’s mental state remain a combination of recognising physical expressions and those in language – how someone uses their emotive words.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.