Science Summary

Emotion cues can be picked up automatically, within a fifth of a second – without you consciously being aware of it. For instance, in just a fifth of a second, we can tell if a smile is genuine, by the wrinkles at the side of the eyes (‘crows feet’), versus a smile with the mouth alone (not genuine) [1]. We also rely on cues of fear, anger and disgust to tell us about different types of potential threats.

Our primary emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger and disgust, and these are universal [2,3]. Sometimes surprise is included, but it can be related to fear or happiness. The emotion cues we rely on most are facial expressions of emotion. We use these cues to interpret the expressions of others for everyday communication [1,3,4].

Emotion reactions are supported by feedforward, excitatory brain connections, which allow simple cues to be sent rapidly and directly to your limbic and cortical brain systems, and to trigger body arousal changes [4,5]. A slower cortical feedback system supports more detailed labelling and evaluation of Emotion cues [4].

Difficulties in Thinking and Feeling have been associated with a reduction in the capacity to read facial emotions [6]. Effective reading of emotion cues allows you to be more effective in your Feeling, Thinking and Self Regulation.

1. Williams LM, et al. (2001),. Journal of Psychophysiology, 15, 122 - 127.

2. Williams LM,et al. (2009). Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology.

3. Ekman P. (1993). American Psychologist, 48, 384-392

4. Williams LM, et al. (2006). Journal of Neuroscience, 26, 9264-9271.

5. Whalen PJ, et al. (1998) Neuroscience, 18, 411–418

6. Williams LM, Gordon E. (2007). Neuroscientist, 13, 349-370.

Self Regulation Skills
Positivity-Negativity Bias


Social Capacity

Feeling Skills
Stress Level

Anxiety Level

Depressed Mood Level

Thinking Skills
Sustained Attention


Controlled Attention


Executive Function

Processing Speed

Recall Memory

Working Memory

Motor Coordination

Emotion Skills
Identifying Emotions

Emotion Bias