Science Proves That People With Resting Hateface Will Inherit The Earth

Remember this study the next time someone says "smile more."

A new study published in the latest (Sept. 2014 Volume 35, Issue 5) journal of Evolution and Human Behavior by scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara and Australia's Griffith University discusses the evolutionary origins of "anger face:" the facial expression of rage.

According to the researchers,

Anger face is characterized by a lowered brow, thinned lips, and flared nostrils.

The study"s lead author, Aaron Sell, told the U.C. Santa Barbara Current that "the expression is cross-culturally universal, and even congenitally blind children make this same face without ever having seen one."

The researchers hypothesized that anger face has an evolutionary background.

If anger face is "built in", then the question is, "what is the purpose of this facial expression?"

This study is part of a larger body of research that examines anger in evolution. According to Sell, "(their) earlier research showed that anger evolved to motivate effective bargaining behavior during conflicts of interest."

In other words, anger is a way of getting what you want.

Think about a toddler who you've just refused to hand a toy or a piece of candy to. What happens? The toddler becomes angry. This is what the researchers call a "bargaining tool."

The researchers hypothesized that the anger face is a way of indicating a physical ability to escalate aggression. They identified 7 key muscle movements that are, according to Sell,

"designed to help intimidate others by making the angry individual appear more capable of delivering harm if not appeased."

So how did the scientists test this? Researchers asked experiment participants to look at a pair of computer-generated faces. On one side was a "control" or neutral face. On the other was a face that was made to look angry with one of the seven identified anger components. The participants were then asked to judge which face appeared physically stronger.

The researchers found that any one of the anger components made the faces look stronger. As Sell said to the U.C. Santa Barbara Current, "our previous research showed that humans are exceptionally good at assessing fighting ability just by looking at someone's face. Since people who are judged to be stronger tend to get their way more often, other things being equal, the researchers concluded that the explanation for evolution of the form of the human anger face is surprisingly simple -- It is a threat display."

A threat display is a way of showing strength in a conflict so as to intimidate an opponent into submission by signaling a willingness to do violence. While all creatures are equipped to be able to identify threat displays, organisms that can win a confrontation without having to expose themselves to injury through actual violence are organisms that can live long enough to procreate.

Countering the older theory that the anger face is an "arbitrary set of features that evolved simply to signal aggressive intent," the researchers hypothesize "that the muscle movements that constitute the human facial expression of anger were selected because they increased others' assessments of the angry individual's strength, thereby increasing bargaining power."

In simple terms, over time we learned the facial expressions that best showed strength.

As Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, "supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

Source(s): Science Daily, U.C. Santa Barbara Current, The full study may be found here: Evolution and Human Behavior Volume 35, Issue 5, September 2014, Pages 425–429. All gifs, including cover, from Giphy: click images through to see original.

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