The overarching focus of my work is the evolution of social communication. I am particularly interested in human and non-human primate facial expression and emotion, and consider how these signals contribute to sociality and social bonding. I am a certified FACS (Facial Action Coding System) coder and was part of the development team for ChimpFACS – a modification of FACS for use with chimpanzees (The Chimpanzee Facial Action Coding System: funded by the Leverhulme Trust, PI Kim Bard). See publication list for full details of published work.
Anatomical basis of facial expression
In collaboration with Anne Burrows and others, we have been investigating the facial muscles underlying facial movement in humans and other primates. In part, this is simply a necessity in order to create anatomically based measurement tool (see below) that are comparable between species, but we have also tried to answer some interesting questions along the way. How similar are facial muscles between different primate species, and does this tell us something about how similar facial expressions are between species also? Which movements have been retained through evolution, and why? can we understand the selection pressures which have caused facial expression musculature to become so specialised in the primate order?
Katja Liebal, Anne Burrows and Bridget Waller are creating an anatomically based measurement tool for facial expression in gibbons and siamangs.
"Comparing emotional expression across species - GibbonFACS." A Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) funded project within the Excellence initiative Languages of Emotion (Project leaders: Katja Liebal, Bridget Waller and Anne Burrows)
With Lisa Parr and colleagues, we are creating an anatomically based measurement tool for detailed and systematic analysis of rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) facial expression.
"Measuring expressive movement in monkeys" R03 grant to Dr. Lisa Parr, Emory University, USA, with Bridget Waller, Co-Investigator, 2007-2009, from National Institutes of Mental Health (NIH- NIMH), US
In 2005 we created an observational tool for measuring facial expression in chimpanzees.