The Facial Action Coding System (FACS)

The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) by Paul Ekman, Wallace V. Friesen, and Joseph C. Hager is a method for measuring facial behaviors. It illustrates appearance changes of the face using written descriptions, still images, and digital video examples. FACS, a coding of the 43 facial muscles, was revised in 2002, and is used by professionals such as psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, all over the world.

FACS has had a significant impact on research methods used to study the face, nonverbal communication, and emotion . When people make faces--whether spontaneous and concealed emotions - microexpressions, or deliberate contortions--they engage muscles around the eyes, mouth, nose and forehead. With FACS, Ekman and Friesen detailed which muscles move during which facial expressions. Working through the exercises of the FACS Manual may also enable greater awareness of and sensitivity to subtle facial behaviors that could be useful for psychotherapists, interviewers, and other practitioners who must penetrate deeply into interpersonal communications.

Institutions such as the CIA, FBI MI6, and Scotland Yard, have repeatedly invited Paul Ekman to give his opinion or training workshops in “face reading” techniques. Some of the research is presented in the white papers: A Few Can Catch a Liar, and Why don't we Catch Liars?

The FACS Manual, Investigator's Guide, multimedia files, and computer program are available in eBook (PDF) format on a CD ROM. You can read a detailed description of the FACS product and/or read an HTML version of the first two chapters of the FACS Manual and the first five chapters of the Investigator's Guide. The books on CD work with most computers (see System Support for compatibility guidelines). You can buy the new version of Facial Action Coding System online.

Videos: Emotions Revealed KQED QUEST
Face to Face: The Science of Reading Faces

Test your skill: Can you detect a fake smile?

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