Science & Technology
5:39 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Scientists uncover why we all make the same 'anger face'

The 'anger face' is universal because we evolved to use it, according to scientists at UCSB and Australia's Griffith University.
Credit The Current, UCSB

The next time you make an angry face, you may be comforted to know that the elements of that face are built into our genetic makeup.

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara in collaboration with Australia's Griffith University have identified the functional advantages behind the face. The findings are in the current edition of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

The scientists say every aspect of the angry face—from your mouth up to your eyebrows—is aimed at intimidating your subject. The look has evolved to make you look stronger.

Dr. Aaron Sell, a tenured lecturer at Griffith, was one of the researchers on the project. He says all aspects of the angry face are universal, regardless of race or culture.

"The best evidence of this really is evidenced with congenitally blind children who have never seen an anger face in their life, but when they get angry make the same face," said Sell. "That couldn't have been learned. Nobody is instructing these children and telling them, no, when they're angry to pull their eyebrows down and together, nobody teaches that. They can just make that face spontaneously."

While the face is universal among humans, Sell says it doesn't translate to other species, including our closest relative the chimpanzee. Dogs for instance show their teeth when angry, demonstrating their prime intimidation factor.

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