Nonverbal Cues

Emotion. An unpleasant visceral feeling of sorrow, unhappiness, depression, or gloom.

Usage: Sadness shows a. in bowing postures of the body wall; b. in the cry face and lip-pout; c. in gazing-down; d. in a slumped (i.e., flexed-forward) posture of the shoulders; and e. in the audible sigh.

RESEARCH REPORTS: 1. Signs of sadness include drooping eyelids; flaccid muscles; hanging head; contracted chest; lowered lips, cheeks, and jaw ("all sink downwards from their own weight"); downward-drawn mouth corners; raised inner-ends of the eyebrows (i.e., contraction of "grief muscles"); and remaining motionless and passive (Darwin 1872:176-77). 2. Sadness shows most clearly in the eye area (Ekman, Friesen, and Tomkins 1971).

Evolution. Sadness is a mammalian feeling which stems from a. grief associated with maternal-infant separation, and b. defeat inflicted in fighting for dominance.

Anatomy. In acute sadness, muscles of the throat constrict, salivary glands release a viscous fluid, repeated swallowing movements are seen, the eyes close tightly, and the lacrimal glands release tears. Facial signs include a. frowning eyebrows (corrugator supercilii, occipitofrontalis, and orbicularis oculi muscles contract); b. frowning mouth (depressor anguli oris); c. pouted or compressed lips (orbicularis oris); and d. depression and eversion of the lower lip (depressor labii inferioris)--as the facial features constrict (as if) to seal-off contact with the outside world.

Primatology. "Gradually, over several years, he [a chimpanzee who lost his mother at age 3] developed abnormal behavior, consisting of social isolation, unusual posturing, rocking, an increase in self-grooming, and a habit of pulling out hairs and chewing them" (Hamburg et al. 1975:247).

Neuro-notes. Each of the four cranial nerves for chewing (V); moving the lips, crying, and salivating (VII); and sighing and swallowing (IX and X) originally played a gut-reactive, visceral role (see SPECIAL VISCERAL NERVE) related to the gastrointestinal tract (Goldberg, 1995:35). The sick "gut feeling" we associate with sadness is mediated by the enteric nervous system, located in the stomach, intestines, and colon.


YouTube Video: Watch a Japanese man mime sadness.

Copyright 1998 - 2016 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies)