Eyes vs. Mouths

People perceive faces differently based on their cultures. Masaki Yuki of Hokkaido University, in Japan, and his colleagues created images of faces with ambiguous expressions, such as a happy mouth with sad eyes. Japanese viewers focused on the eyes, but Americans primarily looked at the mouths. And the Asians rated faces with joyful eyes as happier than did Americans, who saw smiling faces as happier. In cultures that value emotional restraint, the eyes may be more telling, since the eye muscles are harder to control than those of the mouth. In this country, where showing feelings is encouraged, the mouth is a more reliable emotional indicator.

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