Facial expressions are supposedly universal, or at least some of them. Here are a few of the most universal and why everyone understands them.
When confused typically you scrunch the nose and forehead, maybe with pursed lips and a raised eyebrow. A confused face actually represents trying harder to understand the world around us and can even be found among chimpanzees. We all desire to understand the world on all levels.
Shame, similar to the animal kingdom expression for submission, is expressed with averted, down-cast eyes and a sad or worried look. This similarity would make sense since shame often follows the loss of a game or competition and not meeting others expectations and admitting defeat.
Surprise is an emotion and expression very similar to fear and is one of the most instinctual facial expressions we make. It is an immediate reaction we have to something, meaning it is not consciously made. The facial expression typically includes widened eyes, a gaping mouth, and large pupils to help us take in our environment and react quickly and efficiently.
Focus can manifest a facial expression depending on whether we are focused on a particular physical task or on a thought or idea. When focused on a task typically our eyes are fixed on the physical object or project we are working on, whereas if focused on an idea we are often looking upward with averted eyes. Both exhibit far less blinking. Something many don’t know is that focus also has a “motor disinhibition,” where the tongue twists and moves from side to side – this is also why we blink less.
Indications of fatigue and exhaustion are half-open eyelids and often raised eye brows to try and keep yourself awake. (You remember that look early in the morning mirror?) This expression is also shown in intelligent great apes. This expression serves in a very similar way to the battery icon on your phone – to tell others what your energy levels are and what our potential capabilities are.