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Inheriting Expressions

November 30, 2006

New evidence suggests we may inherit our facial expressions from our parents.


Sharing smiles across generations. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If anyone’s ever said you have your mother’s smile, you might thank—or blame—your genes. This according to Gili Peleg and her colleagues at the University of Haifa in Israel. They studied people who were born blind, and their family members, as they expressed emotions like joy, sadness, and anger.

GILI PELEG (University of Haifa, Israel):
And we start photographing each individual and just documented all facial movements we observed.

They found that the blind subjects’ facial expressions matched those of their family members much more closely than those of strangers. Since they couldn’t have learned this by imitating, the researchers suggest that genes may play an important role. Peleg says that understanding that role may shed light on conditions like autism, in which facial expressions are impaired.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.