The human face has 43 muscles, which can stretch, lift and contort it into dozens of expressions. Is it really so easy to read?

Research in the 1960s and 1970s suggested that emotional expressions – smiling when happy, scowling when angry, and so on – were universal. This idea stood unchallenged for a generation.

But a new cohort of psychologists and cognitive scientists are revisiting the data. Many researchers now think that the picture is a lot more complicated, and that facial expressions vary widely between contexts and cultures.

This is an audio version of our feature: Why faces don’t always tell the truth about feelings.

Illustration of a elderly man's smiling face mapped by recognition software

Credit: Koldunov/Getty

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