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Facial Action Coding System

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Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is a system originally developed by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen in 1976, to taxonomize every conceivable human facial expression. It is the most popular standard currently used to systematically categorize the physical expression of emotions, and it has proven useful both to psychologists and to animators.

It defines expressions as one of 46 "Action Units", which is a contraction or relaxation of one or more muscles. For example, it can be used to distinguish the two types of smiles as follows:

  • insincere and voluntary Pan American smile: contraction of zygomatic major alone
  • sincere and involuntary Duchenne smile: contraction of zygomatic major and inferior part of orbicularis oculi, and pars orbitalis

Although the labeling of expressions currently requires trained experts, researchers have had some success in using computers to automatically identify FACS codes, and thus quickly identify emotions. [1]

Computer graphical face models, such as CANDIDE or Artnatomy, allow expressions to be artificially posed by setting the desired action units.

Codes for common action units

(Also see the list of facial muscles.)

Action units involving facial muscles

Other action units

  • 51 Head turn left
  • 52 Head turn right
  • 53 Head up
  • 54 Head down
  • 55 Head tilt left
  • 56 Head tilt right
  • 57 Head forward
  • 58 Head back
  • 61 Eyes turn left
  • 62 Eyes turn right
  • 63 Eyes up
  • 64 Eyes down
  • 65 Walleye
  • 66 Cross-eye

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts


P. Ekman and W. V. Friesen, Facial Action Coding System, Consulting Psychologist Press, 1977.


Additional material



External links

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