Columbus, Ohio – Professor Aleix Martinez led a group of researchers from the University of Ohio in a body language study. They think that there is a common expression to indicate negative moral judgment. They also claim that every culture around the world uses the same facial sign with the same objective. Basically, a universal face to say “no.”

The research team thinks that facial expressions come from interactions with the environment and as the time passed, they were adapted to express different emotions. They found three common characteristics that every “not face” has including frowned eyebrows which are formed by contracting the muscles in the forehead, which might have been used to protect the face against impacts. Moreover, pressed lips and a raised chin might have protected the body against bacteria since it closes the nostrils and mouth. According to this theory, evolution adapted these facial expressions to show anger, contempt and disgust respectively.

Researchers from the University of Ohio have identified a single and universal facial expression to say ‘no.’ Credit: Independent UK

The “not face” could be key to understanding where the language comes from.

Language has puzzled researchers since ancient times. There is no other animal in the world that uses a written language and we don’t know exactly when it was created. That does not mean that other animals can’t communicate. There are many methods, but our closest ancestors, primates, use body language.

Martinez’ group analyzed a group of people that were able to use the sign language. This group is commonly composed of deaf individuals or people who cannot speak properly. They make forms with their hands to communicate with each other and here is where it gets interesting. People that practice sign language have been using the universal “not face” to express negative judgment instead of using their hands for a long time. Which means, a facial expression literally transformed into grammar or language.

If scientists apply the same study to different facial expressions, they could find the origin of grammar. The paper is the first step in finding grammatical markers in body language.

The results of the study have been available online on the journal Cognition since February 9, 2016.

Source: Science Direct