Revisiting Darwin's comparisons between human and non-human primate facial signals

Eithne Kavanagh, Clare Kimock, Jamie Whitehouse, Jerome Micheletta, Bridget M. Waller

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Darwin and other pioneering scholars made comparisons between human facial signals and those of non-human primates, suggesting that they share evolutionary history. We now have tools available (the Facial Action Coding System) to make these comparisons anatomically based and standardised, as well as analytical methods to facilitate comparative studies. Here we review the evidence establishing a shared anatomical basis between the facial behaviour of human and non-human primate species, concluding which signals are probably related, and which are not. We then review the evidence for shared function and discuss the implications for understanding human communication. Where differences between humans and other species exist, we explore possible explanations and future directions for enquiry.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere27
Number of pages15
JournalEvolutionary Human Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2022


  • facial expression
  • communication
  • primates
  • FACS
  • evolution


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