July 11, 2024, Durham, NC – Social-emotional skills are essential to the development of healthy social behavior. Being able to identify and understand one’s own and another’s feelings, as well as regulate one’s positive and negative emotions, is related to positive peer interactions and school achievement. iRT has created several manualized, evidenced-based intervention programs for children and adolescents that focus on improving social-emotional abilities for delivery in elementary, middle, high, or afterschool settings.

Consistent with our mission to promote social and emotional well-being in children, adolescents, and adults, iRT’s researchers have expanded their expertise using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). FACS is an anatomically-based system for defining, classifying, and measuring visual human facial movements. FACS quantifies facial muscle movements into Action Units (AUs). AUs often appear in combinations on a person’s face based on upon the emotions that they are experiencing, and these AUs can be studied and coded to identify human emotions accurately and meaningfully.

FACS has been used to advance the study of emotion recognition skills, develop high-quality social-emotional learning and assessment resources, increase awareness of facial behaviors in the field of psychotherapy, and more. Major animation studios such as Disney and Pixar have utilized FACS to accurately portray emotions in many famous animated films.

Researchers have expanded upon existing knowledge of emotion recognition skills using FACS. For example, a person’s ability to look at a child’s face and accurately identify the child’s emotions can vary depending on the race and gender of the child they are viewing. One study assessed the validity of a new measure, called the PerCEIVED Task, for identifying accuracies and inaccuracies in adults’ ability to identify emotions. The PerCEIVED measure shows participants videos of children of diverse races and genders with FACS-coded faces. Participants responses are recorded and scored. The study found that participants were able to recognize happiness most accurately and easily in videos of FACS-coded faces, followed by sadness, surprise, then fear. A common inaccuracy in participants’ emotion recognition was that they perceived sadness in children’s faces when none existed.1 This line of research can inform the development of future social emotional assessment tools and training resources in order to improve emotion recognition skills in professionals such as psychotherapists, teachers, and law enforcement officers.

iRT’s certified FACS coders and social-emotional assessment experts have used their expertise in FACS coding to create and edit brief videos and photos of people accurately depicting various emotions on their faces. Using their knowledge of AUs, iRT researchers have coached children as young as four years of age in how to move their facial muscles to depict a specific emotion on their face. This skill contributes to iRT’s ability to develop emotion recognition skill-building programs, including those aimed at minimizing the emotion recognition skill inaccuracies that sometimes occur based on factors of race and gender.

If you are in need of FACS expertise for your next project, please contact us at info@irtinc.us to discuss how we can meet your needs.


  1. Halberstadt, A. G., Cooke, A. N., Hagan, C. A., & Liu, X. (2021). PerCEIVED: Perceptions of children’s emotions in videos, evolving and dynamic task. Emotion (Washington, D.C.)21(8), 1781–1795. https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0001019