Marc Mehu

Marc Mehu
General Information

My research interests lie in the study of social behaviour and emotion from an evolutionary perspective. I obtained a PhD in Evolutionary Psychology from the University of Liverpool, where I investigated the social function of smiling and laughter under the supervision of Robin Dunbar. In september 2007, I moved to Geneva to take a postdoctoral position in the Department of Psychology and later at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences. I work on several research projects that involve the study of facial expression (using FACS) displayed during emotional episodes, the impact of social factors on the display and perception of different forms of smiles, and the automatic processing of social signals in human interactions (as part of the European Network of Excellence SSPNet).



I studied psychology at the University of Liège (Belgium) with specializations in cognitive and behavioural therapy, and in ethology. After two ethological field studies on primate behaviour in South India and West Africa (Republic of Guinea), I started a PhD in evolutionary psychology/behavioural ecology at the University of Liverpool. My PhD research consisted of a series of observational studies and experiments designed to address the influence of social factors on the display and perception of smiling and laughter. Using an evolutionary perspective, I concluded that these behaviours are crucial signals in social interactions because they could advertise dispositions that are necessary for the formation of cooperative relationships. This research underlined the role played by positive emotion in the regulation of interpersonal relationships.

I am now postdoctoral researcher at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences and based at CISA (Centre Inter-facultaire en Sciences Affectives), in Geneva. My current research entails the analysis of nonverbal behaviour, in particular facial displays, in emotional expressions and in social interactions. My work is part of the European Network of Excellence SSPNet (Social Signal Processing Network,

Current Research


I am currently involved in several research projects in relation to facial expression, emotion, social interaction, and multimodal communication:

– Negotiation and Emotion (NEMO): An interdisciplinary project on individual differences in socio-emotional skills in relation to dyadic negotiation.

– Analysis of facial and bodily movements in naturally occurring social interactions (political debates and role play meetings) with a focus on the expression of agreement, disagreement, and dominance.

– Analysis of vocal expressions in the context of verbal interruptions and conflicts in dyadic interactions.

– Conceptual analysis of the nature of social signals and their connections to emotional experience.

– Investigation of the link between nonverbal behaviour (mainly facial expression) and perceived authenticity of emotional expressions.

– Production and perception of emotional expressions in negotiation.


Selected Publications
Mehu, M., Dunbar, R. I. M. (2008) Naturalistic observations of smiling and laughter in human group interactions. Behaviour 145(12), 1747-1780.
Mehu, M., Little, A. C., Dunbar, R. I. M. (2007) Duchenne smiles and the perception of generosity and sociability in faces. Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 5(1-4), 133-146.
Mehu, M., Grammer, K., Dunbar, R. I. M. (2007) Smiles when sharing. Evolution and Human Behavior 28, 415-422.
Mehu, M., Mortillaro, M., Bänziger, T., Scherer, K. R. (2012) Reliable facial muscles activation enhances recognisability and credibility of emotional expression. Emotion 12(4), 701-715.
Mehu, M., Scherer, K. R. (2012) A psycho-ethological approach to Social Signal Processing. Cognitive Processing 13(2), 397-414.