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Abstract

255 instances of “brow raise” filmed in three cultures in unstaged social interactions were analyzed on different levels using the “Facial Action Coding System” (FACS, Ekman & Friesen 1978). Contraction and slackening of the M. frontalis, pars medialis et lateralis are involved, and show temporal constancy in all three cultures, creating a pattern with a typical movement configuration. This configuration is discussed as a universal prerequisite for stimulus generation perception. The total time of contraction varies with contextual features, and brow raise in openings is longer than during interactions. An analysis of co-occurrence of other facial movements showed universal patterns occurring in all three cultures. Brow raise is most often accompanied by a smile. The antithesis of this “eyebrow flash”, both in neuromuscular and semantic aspect, is brought about by the action of the M. corrugator supercilii, lowering the brows and pulling them together. In addition, a set of functional patterns could be identified in all three cultures, ranging from a factual “yes” to a “yes to social contact”. Thus, the eyebrow flash can be interpreted as a “social marking-tool” which emphasizes the meaning of other facial cues, head movements and even verbal statements.