The ability to communicate is one of the core aspects of human life. For this, we use not only verbal but also nonverbal signals of remarkable complexity. Among the latter, facial expressions belong to the most important information channels. Despite the large variety of facial expressions we use in daily life, research on facial expressions has so far mostly focused on the emotional aspect. Consequently, most databases of facial expressions available to the research community also include only emotional expressions, neglecting the largely unexplored aspect of conversational expressions. To fill this gap, we present the MPI facial expression database, which contains a large variety of natural emotional and conversational expressions. The database contains 55 different facial expressions performed by 19 German participants. Expressions were elicited with the help of a method-acting protocol, which guarantees both well-defined and natural facial expressions. The method-acting protocol was based on every-day scenarios, which are used to define the necessary context information for each expression. All facial expressions are available in three repetitions, in two intensities, as well as from three different camera angles. A detailed frame annotation is provided, from which a dynamic and a static version of the database have been created. In addition to describing the database in detail, we also present the results of an experiment with two conditions that serve to validate the context scenarios as well as the naturalness and recognizability of the video sequences. Our results provide clear evidence that conversational expressions can be recognized surprisingly well from visual information alone. The MPI facial expression database will enable researchers from different research fields (including the perceptual and cognitive sciences, but also affective computing, as well as computer vision) to investigate the processing of a wider range of natural facial expressions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas