About this project

This project brings together the science and art of how people communicate through facial expressions. It was created for a general audience as well as for medical professionals.

Much research has been done on nonverbal facial communication and its impact on individual bias, personality and relationships. This topic is universally relevant and is fundamental to our daily interactions with others. 

Yet we never hear about it. Much of the research is published in obscure journals, many of which are not available to the general public. The articles are written in the lengthy, jargon-filled style that academia demands, with little thought for the general reader. Other than the occasional sensationalistic news headline, this important and transformative research lies ignored, gathering dust in the archives of PubMed. I hope to correct this situation.

Here you will find the neurological and behavioural data which reveals how we look at each others’ faces and how we communicate through facial expressions. Sifting through the research, I will highlight what is relevant, interesting and applicable to most people’s lives. By presenting the information in a brief and visually interesting form, and linking it to other connected ideas, I hope to shine a light on brilliant research that is often lost in academic obscurity. I believe everyone should have access to this knowledge, and my goal is to summarize and explain it to anyone curious enough to click on this page.

This project is also aimed at teachers, especially those who teach medical students. I will explain how to focus on clinical perception and observational skills, empathy, mentalization and accurate assessment of emotional and nonverbal cues in patients.  This should help prepare young doctors to better understand and communicate with their patients.


imageAbout Dr Eloise Ballou:

Dr Eloise Ballou is a psychiatrist working in acute care and emergency psychiatry in Toronto. She studied Psychology and Art History as an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, and received her medical degree from the University of Ottawa. She completed her residency at the University of Toronto. 

Throughout her training, her knowledge of psychology and art history has informed her medical work. She has done extensive research in the growing field of Narrative Medicine, including curriculum design and educational initiatives using visual art to enhance perception, empathy and clinical skills in medical trainees.

She has presented her work at the Association of Academic Psychiatry (2015) and for Grand Rounds at a number of University of Toronto, Department of Psychiatry, affiliated teaching hospitals. In recognition of her contributions and novel, impactful work in the health humanities, she was the recipient of the 2015 Mary Seeman Award for Achievement in the Area of Psychiatry and the Humanities.

Dr. Ballou has actively participated in numerous leadership positions, including heading the Narrative and Reflective Curriculum for psychiatry clerkship, serving as an editor for Ars Medica, UofT’s journal for the health humanities, and redesigning a web site for Columbia University’s Arts-in-Medicine Project. She also worked as a research assistant on several projects with the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of the James Bay in the area of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Program development.

She combines art with medicine to teach clinical skills, most recently creating a pilot project in which portraits are used to teach the Mental Status Exam to medical students. In addition to her scholarly work exploring portraiture in psychiatry education, she has participated in a number of other educational initiatives, such as finding the intersection of the CanMEDS framework with arts-based health humanities in medical education, creating several online medical educational teaching videos, and developing an iPhone app to teach child development to medical trainees.