As a highly social species, humans frequently exchange social information to support almost all facets of life. One of the richest and most powerful tools in social communication is the face, from which observers can quickly and easily make a number of inferences - about identity, gender, sex, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical health, attractiveness, emotional state, personality traits, pain or physical pleasure, deception, and even social status. With the advent of the digital economy, increasing globalization and cultural integration, understanding precisely which face information supports social communication and which produces misunderstanding is central to the evolving needs of modern society (for example, in the design of socially interactive digital avatars and companion robots). Doing so is challenging, however, because the face can be thought of as comprising a high-dimensional, dynamic information space, and this impacts cognitive science and neuroimaging, and their broader applications in the digital economy. New opportunities to address this challenge are arising from the development of new methods and technologies, coupled with the emergence of a modern scientific culture that embraces cross-disciplinary approaches. Here, we briefly review one such approach that combines state-of-the-art computer graphics, psychophysics and vision science, cultural psychology and social cognition, and highlight the main knowledge advances it has generated. In the light of current developments, we provide a vision of the future directions in the field of human facial communication within and across cultures.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.