The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues


Emotion. An unpleasant visceral feeling of sorrow, unhappiness, depression, or gloom.
Usage: Sadness shows a. in bowing postures of the body wallb. in the cry face and lip-poutc. in gazing-downd. in a slumped (i.e., flexed-forward) posture of the shoulders; and e. in the audible sigh.
RESEARCH REPORTS1. Signs of sadness include drooping eyelidsflaccid muscleshanging headcontracted chestlowered lips, cheeks, and jaw ("all sink downwards from their own weight")downward-drawn mouth cornersraised inner-ends of the eyebrows (i.e.,contraction of "grief muscles"); and remaining motionless and passive (Darwin 1872:176-77). 2. Sadness shows most clearly in the eye area (Ekman, Friesen, and Tomkins 1971).

Evolution. Sadness is a mammalian feeling which stems from a. grief associated with maternal-infant separation, and b. defeat inflicted infighting for dominance.

Anatomy. In acute sadness, muscles of the throat constrict, salivary glands release a viscous fluid, repeated swallowing movements are seen, the eyes close tightly, and the lacrimal glands release tears. Facial signs include a. frowning eyebrows (corrugator superciliioccipitofrontalis, and orbicularis oculi muscles contract); b. frowning mouth (depressor anguli oris); c. pouted or compressed lips (orbicularis oris); and d.depression and eversion of the lower lip (depressor labii inferioris)--as the facial features constrict (as if) to seal-off contact with the outside world.

Primatology. "Gradually, over several years, he [a chimpanzee who lost his mother at age 3] developed abnormal behavior, consisting of social isolation, unusual posturing, rocking, an increase in self-grooming, and a habit of pulling out hairs and chewing them" (Hamburg et al. 1975:247).

Neuro-notes. Each of the four cranial nerves for chewing (V); moving the lipscrying, and salivating (VII); and sighing and swallowing (IX and X) originally played a gut-reactive, visceral role (see SPECIAL VISCERAL NERVE) related to the gastrointestinal tract (Goldberg, 1995:35). The sick "gut feeling" we associate with sadness is mediated by the enteric nervous system, located in the stomach, intestines, and colon.