Not Face Becomes A Universal Part Of Language, Study Says

Posted: Mar 28 2016, 9:52am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Not Face Becomes a Universal Part of Language, Study Says
Researchers have identified a single, universal facial expression that is interpreted across many cultures as the embodiment of negative emotion. The look proved identical for native speakers of English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language. It consists of a furrowed brow, pressed lips and raised chin, and because we make it when we convey negative sentiments, such as 'I do not agree,' researchers are calling it the 'not face.' Image courtesy of The Ohio State University.
  • The “Not Face” is Body Language that is Recognized Universally Across All Cultures

It has been said that the “Not Face” is body language that is recognized universally across all cultures. It is a sign of negative emotions in the individual.

A unitary facial expression has been identified by researchers as a universal symbol of negativity. It runs the gamut of all the cultures of the global village.

The appearance of the faces of native speakers of English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and American Sign Language (ASL) were all alike as regards the expression of this negative emotion.

The negative look consists of a knitted brow, formal lips that are close to one another and a slightly elevated chin. Since it is commonly made when we disagree with someone, or show our disapproval of something, it is termed the “Not Face”.

The study was published in a journal titled Cognition.

Further research showed that the muscles of our face showed this negative effect simultaneously as we say something not very positive or write the words in a sentence that subtracts from the bright and optimistic. It is thus a universal part and parcel of our instinctual heritage as human beings.

Even ASL speakers used the expression many times in a row in place of the sign for negativity. This occurred spontaneously and naturally to these individuals.

Such a finding has not been previously forthcoming in case of speakers of ASL. This is the first time that such a moral negative value judgement has been identified as a facial marker.

The human facial expressions go into extreme multiplicity. We can convey a lot of information via our facial features and actions.

The important question to ask is where our language came from in the first place. This question does not have a simple answer. However, it probably has a strong link with emotional facial expressions.

Over 21 separate emotional expressions have been mapped out beforehand. They include some that are combinations and permutations of simpler expressive patterns.

"To our knowledge, this is the first evidence that the facial expressions we use to communicate negative moral judgment have been compounded into a unique, universal part of language," said Aleix Martinez, cognitive scientist and professor of electrical and computer engineering at The Ohio State University.

"Where did language come from? This is a question that the scientific community has grappled with for a very long time," he continued. "This study strongly suggests a link between language and facial expressions of emotion."

Even “happiness” and “disgust” can be combined to show the strange coincidence of being “happily disgusted”. This may be our mixed response to toilet humor or a a funny yet gross situation shown on screen.

The universal “Not Face” involves three emotions: anger, disgust and contempt. Charles Darwin observed that the communication of negative emotions, which represented danger and aggression, were probably necessary for the survival of our species.

The apparatus for such facial expressions was present before we learned to talk. The negative display of emotion on a facial basis was more prominent too.

An experiment was carried out with four groups of speakers of various languages. These were English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and ASL. The “Not Face” emerged as a universal grammatical sign of body language that all four had in common.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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