Non-verbal Communication in Facial Expressions

As humans we are granted the gift of facial expression. We can display our inner emotions and thoughts without any words or sounds. Our faces can tell so much about what we are thinking and how we are feeling. Humans are also very good at explicitly recognizing and describing the emotion being expressed. (Frith, 2009)

As Dwyer stated (2009, cited in COMM11003 Wk 7 Lesson), facial expressions in a non-verbal communication scenario can be interpreted at both a personal and cultural level. Personal facial expressions relate to an individual’s characteristics, while cultural expressions can differ between groups and usually refer to characteristics common to a specific set of people. Studies conducted on facial and non-verbal communication date back to the publication of Charles Darwin and his book, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals published in 1972. It was later discovered by Dr. Paul Ekman, whose research is the basis of the show “Lie to Me”, has done groundbreaking research on decoding the face. (Van Edwards, 2013)

(Lie to me Intro, 2015)

There are 7 facial micro expressions that are the most widely used and easy to interpret. A micro expression is a brief involuntary facial expression that is shown on the face of humans according to the emotions that are being experienced. Unlike regular pro-longed facial expressions, it is difficult to fake a micro expression. (Van Edwards, 2013) These are; anger, fear, surprise, disgust, sadness, happiness and contempt. The face is the best indication of a person’s emotions. Yet, the face is disregarded.

Figure 1

The below compliation of snippets from the popular t.v series ‘Friends’ shows how facial expressions and non-verbal communication is one of the most powerful tools human beings hold.

(Klawans, 2013)


Ekman, P. (1992). Facial Expressions of Emotion: an Old Controversy and New Findings. London: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, pp.63–69.

Frith, C. (2009). Role of facial expressions in social interactions. The Royal Society. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2016].

Klawans, K. (2013). The importance of nonverbal cues as told by friends.

Gomez, G.R. (2015). Lie to me Intro.

Matsumoto, D. and Sung Hwang, H. (2016). Reading facial expressions of emotion. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2016].

Van Edwards, V. (2013). Guide to Reading Microexpressions – Science of People. [online] Science of People. Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2016].


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