Hereditary family signature of facial expression

Gili Peleg, Gadi Katzir, Ofer Peleg, Michal Kamara, Leonid Brodsky, Hagit Hel-Or, Daniel Keren, Eviatar Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although facial expressions of emotion are universal, individual differences create a facial expression "signature" for each person; but, is there a unique family facial expression signature? Only a few family studies on the heredity of facial expressions have been performed, none of which compared the gestalt of movements in various emotional states; they compared only a few movements in one or two emotional states. No studies, to our knowledge, have compared movements of congenially blind subjects with their relatives to our knowledge. Using two types of analyses, we show a correlation between movements of congenitally blind subjects with those of their relatives in think-concentrate, sadness, anger, disgust, joy, and surprise and provide evidence for a unique family facial expression signature. In the analysis "in-out family test," a particular movement was compared each time across subjects. Results show that the frequency of occurrence of a movement of a congenitally blind subject in his family is significantly higher than that outside of his family in think-concentrate, sadness, and anger. In the analysis "the classification test," in which congenitally blind subjects were classified to their families according to the gestalt of movements, results show 80% correct classification over the entire interview and 75% in anger. Analysis of the movements' frequencies in anger revealed a correlation between the movements' frequencies of congenitally blind individuals and those of their relatives. This study anticipates discovering genes that influence facial expressions, understanding their evolutionary significance, and elucidating repair mechanisms for syndromes lacking facial expression, such as autism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15921-15926
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - 24 Oct 2006


  • Congenitally blind
  • Facial movements
  • Genetics
  • Gestalt
  • Individual differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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