Description of Facial Action Coding System (FACS)
|FACS comes on a CD ROM
What are the FACS Manual and Investigator's Guide?
The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) Manual is a detailed, technical guide that
explains how to categorize facial behaviors based on the muscles that
produce them, i.e., how muscular action is related to facial
appearances. It illustrates appearance changes of the face using written
descriptions, still images, and digital video examples. Behavioral
scientists, CG animators, computer scientists interested in pattern
recognition programs, and other technicians and scientists use FACS in
their professional work when they need to know the exact movements
that the face can perform, and what muscles produce them. Working through the exercises of the FACS
Manual may also enable greater awareness of and sensitivity to subtle facial behaviors that could be useful for psychotherapists, interviewers, and other practitioners who must penetrate deeply into interpersonal communications.
FACS is a training manual, not necessarily easy
reading, with lessons for detecting, performing, and categorizing facial movements. The manual does not discuss what the facial appearances
described mean, except briefly in the Investigator's Guide. The FACS
Manual enables the practitioner to recognize the elements of facial
behavior that combine to create meaningful communications; FACS
teaches the "alphabet" but leaves the considerable issue of semantics to other works.
The FACS Investigator's Guide explains in general how to use FACS in
scientific research, how it compares to other facial measurements, and
what its psychometric properties are. The new
version (2002) of FACS by Paul Ekman, Wallace V. Friesen, and Joseph C. Hager
is now available for purchase. You can read about the new version of the FACS Manual, and
purchase it on this site.
|Facial action coding involves
identifying muscles that
produce facial appearances
What is Facial Action Coding System?
Facial Action Coding System (FACS) is the most widely used and versatile method for measuring and describing facial behaviors. Paul Ekman and W.V. Friesen developed the original FACS in the 1970s by determining how the contraction of each facial muscle (singly and
in combination with other muscles) changes the appearance of the face. They examined videotapes of facial behavior to identify the specific changes that occurred with muscular contractions and how best to differentiate one from
another. They associated the appearance changes with the action of muscles that produced them by studying anatomy, reproducing the appearances, and palpating their faces. Their goal was to create a reliable means for skilled human
scorers to determine the category or categories in which to fit each facial behavior. The FACS Manual was first published in a loose-leaf version with video or film supplements in 1978.
FACS measurement units are Action Units (AUs), not muscles, for two reasons. First, for a few appearances, more than one muscle was
combined into a single AU because the changes in appearance they produced could not be distinguished. Second, the appearance changes produced by one muscle were sometimes separated into two or more AUs to represent relatively
independent actions of different parts of the muscle. (After all, facial muscles were identified and named by anatomists, not behavioral psychologists.)
A FACS coder "dissects" an observed expression, decomposing it
into the specific AUs that produced the movement. The scores for a facial expression consist of the list of AUs that produced it. Duration, intensity, and asymmetry can also be recorded.
FACS scores are descriptive
only, and provide no implications about the meaning of the behavior. Analysis of the data can use only these raw FACS scores, or the scores can be translated into more psychologically meaningful concepts by techniques such as FACSAID, a database interpretation system available to researchers.
How does one obtain FACS?
The FACS Manual, Investigator's Guide, multimedia files, and computer program are available in eBook (PDF) format on a CD ROM. You can read a detailed description of the FACS product and/or read an HTML version of the first two chapters of
the FACS Manual and the first five chapters of the Investigator's Guide. The books on CD work with most computers (see System Support for compatibility guidelines). You can buy the new
version of Facial Action Coding System online.
Note on Baby FACS: Infants differ from adults in the distribution of facial tissues, which makes the appearances of some muscular actions different from adults. Harriet Oster detailed these differences in a work called Baby
FACS which is used in studies of infants' faces. The standard version of FACS is a prerequisite for using this method. Contact Harriet Oster for further information; see the directory of people or list of offsite articles in the Library section for her website or relevant articles.
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