Northern Facial Expressions

Measuring cultural variation in the facial expression of emotion in northern places

This project aimed to understand how northern culture or environments relate to the facial expression of emotions.

This is an important research area as we know that from birth our environment plays an important role in how we “tune” our behaviour to conform to those around us.

The aim of this project was to take an experimental approach to addressing this question, by understanding how cultural or environmental factors can change our behavioural/facial expression of emotion.

Such findings have implications for how we understand the basis of social cognition and behaviour. Additionally, it aids the further understanding of the role of the environment in relation to a range of psychiatric disorders.

These questions were addressed by using a facial imitation experiment devised within our research group. In this experiment, participants were presented with various facial expressions and then, they were asked to copy the facial expressions.  This allowed us to record their attempts at doing so, by using a webcam.

We then sought to measure how expressively individuals copied the facial expression in respect of environment or cultural conditions.

In order to ensure that our measurements were truly objective we used existing innovations within computer vision to track local features (such as the corner of a mouth; or top of an eye brown). We then measured how expressively and accurately participants copy a given facial expression by creating bespoke algorithms designed to meet this aim.