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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 15 (2004), Issue 1-2, Pages 23-34

Laterality of Facial Expressions of Emotion: Universal and Culture-Specific Influences

Manas K. Mandal1 and Nalini Ambady2

1Indian Institute of Technology–Kharagpur, India
2Tufts University, Medford, MA, USA

Received 3 June 2004; Accepted 3 June 2004

Copyright © 2004 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Recent research indicates that (a) the perception and expression of facial emotion are lateralized to a great extent in the right hemisphere, and, (b) whereas facial expressions of emotion embody universal signals, culture-specific learning moderates the expression and interpretation of these emotions. In the present article, we review the literature on laterality and universality, and propose that, although some components of facial expressions of emotion are governed biologically, others are culturally influenced. We suggest that the left side of the face is more expressive of emotions, is more uninhibited, and displays culture-specific emotional norms. The right side of face, on the other hand, is less susceptible to cultural display norms and exhibits more universal emotional signals.