East Asians, Westerners, and Facial Expressions

facesAccording to a new study done by Glasgow University in Scotland, East Asians and Westerners may read facial expressions completely differently — Asians might look at a face and see surprise, while Westerners would look at the same face and see fear. That’s because Asians tend to focus on the eyes, while Westerners take in the face as a whole.

For the same reason, Asians may have trouble distinguishing certain expressions; narrowed eyes could suggest anger, but they could also suggest confusion. Interestingly, the Asians in the study often chose the less socially-threatening emotion. Confusion, not anger. Surprise, not fear.

This study makes all the more sense when you look at emoticons used by Asians and Westerners. Check out the chart in the article, which uses the example of :-) (Western) versus ^_^ (Eastern). I’ve never read much into emoticon styles, but this is pretty neat!

Now I’m wondering if there’s any connection between this study and the drawing of people in Japanese animation, with the emphasis on large, emotive eyes. Thoughts?

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About Linda

Linda Chan lives in New York City. She is interested in all issues Asian, particularly Asians in media and entertainment. She watches what some would consider an unhealthy amount of TV and blogs her sometimes snarky thoughts here: http://lindastv.blogspot.com.
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