Why Peoples O Face Varies According To The Country Theyre From

Apparently, Meg Ryans face in that iconic When Harry Met Sally scene is less universal than we thought...

What face do we make when we have an orgasm? Does everyone open their mouth and close their eyes? Well, according to science, it all depends on where you’re from.

Don’t you love orgasms? Sometimes, I don’t know what I love the most: whether having one myself or seeing the other person’s face while they’re having one. But if you always thought that everyone all over the world made the same facial expressions when reaching the peak of pleasure, we’re here to tell you that your O face depends on your culture.

The face of pleasure

That’s right. According to a study published recently on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences magazine, the face people make when they feel pleasure varies according to their country of origin.

But that’s not all. The investigation led by Rachel Jack, a psychologist at University of Glasgow in Scotland, found that people’s facial expressions when they feel pain don’t change like their orgasm face does. In other words, pain is the same no matter the culture. Ouch!

Why did they study this?

The group of researchers led by Jack based the study on the idea that human beings tend to use facial expressions to communicate messages.

However, previous studies suggested that people experiencing pain or orgasms produced practically the same facial expressions, which put into question the effectivity of communication tools because, if the expression is the same, how can we tell what the other person’s feeling exactly?

And then what?

To answer this question, researchers created a facial expressions model on a computer program that had an animated face.

The face showed a set of expressions that used three facial movements selected at random (from a total of 42 possible movements), like lifting the eyelids or stretching the mouth wide open.

Then, the experts asked 40 male and female participants from various Western and Eastern cultures to evaluate 3,600 of these computer-generated expressions to determine whether the expression showed pain or pleasure, and how intense it was, from “very strong” to “very weak.” If the expression didn’t look like their ideal representation of pain or pleasure, they could choose “other.”

What happened with the faces?

After these tests, the researchers were able to improve the facial expression generator and tried it with a different group of 104 participants.

Just like with the previous group, they were asked to determine whether the faces showed pain or pleasure, and the person whose face they were evaluating was always the same race as them, just the opposite sex.


What did they find?

Researchers found that in every culture people can tell which expressions show pain and which show pleasure.

Also, it’s interesting that people’s ideas of what expressions of pain look look like all involve the same facial movements across cultures, like frowning, lifting the cheeks, scrunching up the nose, and opening the mouth.

What about orgasms?

In contrast, the orgasm face varies by culture: in the West, it’s eyes and mouth wide open, while in Eastern cultures, the mouth is closed and smiling, and the eyes are shut.

According to the researchers, these differences could be due to cultural standards that influence people’s behavior.

For instance, the study suggests that Western cultures value “positive states of high excitement,” which tend to be associated with big mouth and eye movements. Meanwhile, Eastern cultures value “positive states of low excitement,” like the calm we associate with smiling and a closed mouth.

Cover image: @vincenthawaii


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Translated by Zoralis Pérez