Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2012


Connor Stokes and I worked together to pursue two methods of expanding our knowledge of nonverbal communication and skill at encoding and decoding facial expressions.

First, each week we worked through one chapter of the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) Training Manual. Each chapter describes how to encode and decode several new action units (AUs), details the subtle differences between these new expressions, explains how the AUs change appearance when in combination, and provides a number of videos and pictures to practice scoring. I kept simple notes of my progress through the manual in my FACS Journal, included in my final deliverable.

Second, each week we alternated between designing and conducting simple field experiments. We designed and completed five such exercises:

  • Facial Expression Reproductions (Making Faces)
  • Decomposing Emotional Expressions
  • What Makes a Genuine Smile?
  • Comparing Action Units Across Media
  • Facial Expression Differences Across People and Contexts

We both improved significantly in our ability to encode and decode facial expressions according to the official FACS manual. We also improved our fluency in identifying facial expressions in the real world and our general familiarity with the literature on nonverbal communication through our semi-weekly field exercises.