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Smiles

 

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Overview
Have you ever been asked to "wipe that expression off your face" or to "smile for the camera"? Were you able to? Our facial expressions tell others what we're thinking and feeling-and usually it's easy to tell when someone is faking an expression. In addition, our facial muscles send messages to our brains so that when we make a facial expression, our emotions grow stronger. You have 80 muscles that control what happens on your face. Those muscles communicate at least 40 different groups of expressions-the six primary emotions and their blends. Using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), scientists have observed and analyzed nearly 10,000 facial expressions by determining which muscular actions produce each expression. By studying the mechanics of smiles, frowns, and the thousands of other "faces" we make, scientists are beginning to understand how people use facial expressions. Why is it important to study facial expressions and who cares about them? Actors study expressions to seem more realistic. Police detectives look at the faces of suspects and witnesses to help determine if they are telling the truth. Airport security people study faces of travelers to look for clues about danger in the skies. Medical professionals observe facial reactions during physical exams. Interpreters closely watch the faces of the speakers to determine accurately the message to translate. Reading faces is an important survival skill. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab are working on many projects that involve computers learning to imitate human movement, actions, and even emotions. One project involves developing ways for computer-generated models to interact with each other, using speech with appropriate intonations, hand gestures, and facial movements. In another, scientists use algorithms to generate facial animations from speech and are studying how the face, hands, and speech complement each other in our communication. The focus of another project looks at how people might communicate with computers using speech, gesture, and gaze-the same things humans use to communicate with each other. So next time you meet someone, take a few seconds to think about what that person's face is communicating before either of you says a word. Chances are you'll be able to tell what the person is feeling. But remember-he or she might be doing the same thing to you!

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