The Atlas of Facial Expression (book)

The Atlas of Facial Expression – Stephen Rogers Peck

Some notable points for reference;

The mirror of the soul


“It would seem that nature had deliberately planned the face to be the mirror of the soul, to flash messages for which one sometimes has no words. Indeed, it would seem that nature had endowed mankind with facial expression as an auxiliary means of communication….”

“…Many features of expression are actually serviceable. Some appear to be the relics of devices that were serviceable in a remote past. Other features are caused by physiological events taking place within the body.”


Expressions, Real and Imagined


“Certain facial patterns are standard equipment, common to all humanity and easily identified as the evidence of basic emotions. You will not find it difficult to conjure up the facial expression of merriment, grief, terror or disgust. But many patterns are hybrid strains, as complex and subtle as an epicure’s salad…”

“…It’s important to realise that a few so-called expressions do not exist at all.”

“…A list of words that are often attached to facial expression. Some are actual and visible; others are the fragments of lively imagination:

Wisdom, Envy, Respect, Malice, Revenge, Apathy, Love, Reverence, Guilt, Embarrassment, Wonderment, Ignorance, Hatred, Determination, Sophistication, Mischief, Longing, Jealousy, Innocence, Worry, Bewilderment.”

“…How often have you heards about the ‘guilty look’? It is usually something about the eyes that causes one to speak of a guilty look. They may be uneasy eyes that lower and shift about because they cannot endure the searing gaze of the accuser. But eyes can lower and shift about in ‘not guilty’ situations as well. To interpret the shifting one must be familiar with the circumstances. A person often smiles when his or her guilt is detected. But the circumstances tell us this is an effort to appear lighthearted and unperturbed.”

Non expressive Attitudes

“Can you wrinkle up your nose at the bridge between your eyes? You can attemot this by raising the upper lip an dhsowing your front teeth. Then lower the brows forcibly. Out of context, this contorition says nothing. It is merely grotesque. Probably you felt nothing in doing it except a willingness to oblige and a mild curiosity to find out what this is all about. But these feelings, if you had them are in no way related to a wrinkled nose. Nevertheless, the wrinkling of your nose did signify something. Was is willingness to oblige? Or curiosity? Or was it simply that you’re highly suggestible? This is the crucial point, and one about which we must be discerning from here on. Facial attitudes of any sort are significant. You ‘wear’ them for a reason, and the reasons are sometimes remote and curious…”

“…Much facial behavior is non expressive, yet it still serves a purpose. Every woman must have noticed her facial antics as she applies her make-up; every man will call to mind the comedy of his face while shaving. There are deliberate stretching and puckering that make the job easier or more effective. But such examples are obvious. In the next chapter, let us consider the facial attitudes that may spring into being without relation to any state of mind.”

“Squinting is probably the most basic of non expressive patterns – it serves to protect the most delicate, exposed part of the body – the eyes. Disc shaped muscles around the eyes narrow the eye opening, while the mouth area may stay relaxed.”

Dejection/Melancholy – downward extension of the lower face, tempered by the upward rise of the brow.

High Spirits/Merriment – Imaginary hooks seem to pull the corners of the mouth backwards towards the rear of the head. At the same time the mouth may be upturned and lips raise higher against teeth often displaying a smooth forehead.

Alert constraint – Lips seem to be welded together.

Facial amour – the face, is in effect, locked up against the rude intrusion of life’s vulgarities. Lips are pursed; eyelids are lowered almost totally; even nostrils are constricted.

Surprise/Alarm. The wide open mouth of disbelief is combined with the wide open staring eyes of astonishment.

Aversion/Disgust – the display of upper teeth tells us the stage is set for vomiting. Tongue often on display – slightly stuck out from the mouth.

Anger/Rage – eyes fixed relentlessly on the adversary, curling of the upper lip allows for exhibition of canine tooth (designed for tearing flesh) Snarl and fixed eyes.

Fear/Terror – A revealing feature is the upper face of exhaustion with weary half lowered eyelids. Down turned mouth.

Pain/Exhaustion – Staring aimlessly into space – eyes seem to disappear under lids, revealing some white of eyeball below each disc of iris. Forehead wrinkled – eyebrows and upper lids look a lot like a choir leaders face.









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