To many people a smile is interpreted to mean an individual is content. Because of this reasoning, Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen conducted a study, Constants across cultures in the face and emotion, to determine if this smile and other facial expression are related to the same emotions universally. The study focuses on the question of whether any facial expressions of emotions are consistent.
Though there is much diversity between cultures, everyone is human and many of the same ideas and thoughts are present in all cultures. Being this, they hypothesized a common relationship between cultures" facial behaviors and their emotions no matter where the culture resides or what their living conditions are.
To prove the hypothesis made Ekman and Friesen conducted experiments where they showed photographs of faces representing certain emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, interest) to people from different cultures. By showing the pictures to people from different cultures, Ekman and Friesen were able to determine whether the same facial behaviors would correlate with the same emotion, despite the cultures of the individuals. .
The individuals first used were college educated subjects from Brazil, Japan, Chile, Argentina, and the United States. All the subjects identified the same faces with the same emotions. The subjects were all exposed to the same mass media depictions of facial behavior, which means they may have learned to recognize the same facial behaviors in the same manner. Due to these circumstances, Ekman and Friesen had to determine if members of preliterate cultures, which had not been exposed to the same visual medium, would identify the same emotions with the same facial behaviors as the members of the literate Eastern and Western cultures. The preliterate subjects were members of the Fore linguistic-cultural group of the South East Highlands of New Guinea.