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Researchers Map Facial Expressions for 21 Different Emotions

Photick/Thinkstock(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- Most people move their face in extremely similar ways in response to emotions, which has apparently allowed a research team at The Ohio State University to map facial expressions for 21 distinct emotional states for a computer.  

Previously, computers could only recognize six basic emotions like anger, fear and surprise. This expanded mapping allows computers to recognize and analyze even compound emotional states, such as “angrily surprised.”

"In the English language, we have words such as appalled, hate and awe, which actually correspond to compound facial expressions," cognitive psychologist Aleix Martinez said, explaining how the mapping system works.  "So appalled, for example, is the feeling of anger and disgust."

Martinez said it would be obvious for researchers to observe "happily surprised" emotions or facial expressions, but there are also less obvious expressions, such as "disgustedly surprised" or "angrily disgusted."

"What we have shown here," he added, "is that we can actually express many more of these emotions through our facial expressions, including compound emotions.  And by compound, we mean that you combine two of these six basic elements together."

Martinez says he hopes the study can support research and therapy for people with autism.

"If you want to understand autism and other disorders better, you have to study them within these 21 different facial expressions that can be produced, rather than these six limited number of emotions that have been given in the past," he said.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio