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The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals

book published by Charles Darwin in 1872
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The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals is Charles Darwin's third major work of evolutionary theory, following On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871).

The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals
Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals title page.jpg
AuthorCharles Darwin
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectEvolutionary theory, behaviour
PublisherJohn Murray
Publication date

Darwin had intended it as a section of The Descent of Man. However, that book was already quite long: it was published in two volumes. So the Expression of the Emotions was published separately in 1872.

The book is about the way emotional life is shown by the faces and actions of man and other mammals. Darwin sets out ideas that our systems of emotions are inherited, and have evolved in a similar way to the more familiar structural aspects of man and animals.

He explores the origins of such human characteristics as the lifting of the eyebrows in moments of surprise and the mental confusion which typically accompanies blushing. The book is very notable for being the first book to use photographs as the main way of showing scientific evidence.[1] The field of study is now called behavioural genetics. One line of evidence he uses is the way many different peoples in different parts of the world have similar facial and emotional reactions.

Darwin's basic points were: a single origin for the entire human species, and universal human expressions. Also, there are obvious links between the way human emotions are shown and the way other mammals show their emotions. Our emotional displays are adapted from a more basic set of emotional displays common to many mammals. The emotional displays are inherited, automatic and are difficult to control with our conscious mind. They are operated by the more ancient unconscious mind. Modern research has shown that it is extremely difficult to avoid giving signs of our emotions.[2][3]

A German translation of The Expression appeared in 1872; Dutch and French versions followed in 1873 and 1874. A second edition of the book, with only minor alterations, was published in 1890.

Figure 21, "Horror and Agony", from a photograph by Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne (more images)


  1. It was one of the first books on any subject to be illustrated with photographs – with seven heliotype plates. Phillip Prodger Curator of Photography Peabody Essex Museum (29 August 2009). Darwin's Camera : Art and Photography in the Theory of Evolution. Oxford University Press. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-0-19-972230-3. Retrieved 4 August 2013. Heliotype was a new photomechanical method of reproduction invented by the photographer Ernest Edwards (1837–1903), for whom Darwin had sat for a portrait in 1868. Although he had no experience in photographic publishing, Darwin suggested this new technique to John Murray. ... heliotype reduced the cost of production considerably, enabling Darwin to afford the number of photographs appearing in Expression. line feed character in |quote= at position 364 (help)
  2. Ekman, Paul 2003. Emotions revealed: understanding faces and feelings. London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  3. Ekman, Paul [1991] 4th ed 2009. Telling lies: clues to deceit in the marketplace, politics and marriages. New York: Norton. ISBN 978-0-393-33745-7