It took longer than it should for the case that facial expressions of emotion are largely human universals to be made (in fact wider than human, and conserved across many species). Paul Ekman is a leading figure here, and his introduction to one of the many editions of Darwin's The expression of the emotions in man and animals (Ekman introduced edition on Powell's here, eText edition here). Expression of emotion isn't simply universal - cultural differences can modify and mask it. Also, there's ongoing work on what sorts of basic emotions are relatively universal - early work focussed on states like happiness, fear and disgust. This paper considers highly relational states, in particular pride and shame.
There's some work already suggesting that the non-verbal expresions of pride and shame are fairly universal within humans, and between humans and some other species. (Think of inflated chests, raised arms, strutting, etc., for pride.) One key question not yet rigorously tested is whether displays of pride and shame universally follow actual successes or failures. If they do, that's encouraging news for functionalist accounts of the purpose of such displays in social signalling.
This paper presents the results of an elegant and beautiful attack on the question. There are few cases of success and failure clearer than sporting events with two individual competitors. Typically there's one clear winner and one clear loser. Also, participants in some sporting events are congenitally blind. Quoting the abstract of the paper:
"Specifically, we tested whether sighted, blind, and congenitally blind individuals across cultures spontaneously display pride and shame behaviors in response to the same success and failure situations—victory and defeat at the Olympic or Paralympic Games."
Data for athletes from 37 nations participating in judo matches at the 2004 Olympics and Paralympic games was gathered and coded. The codes showed good inter-rater reliability. Figure 1 below shows the results for a selection of non-verbal behaviors including tilting the head back, smiling, forming fists, etc. among 108 episodes involving sighted athletes (some individuals were recorded more than once).
Figure 2 shows the same measurements for 12 congenitally blind athletes.
There's some striking congruence, especially in the narrowing chest and slumped shoulders of losers, and in a selection of the behaviours of winners. But there's also more - the nationalities of athletes were used to assign them ratings on a number of cultural dimensions, including individualism vs. collectivism, secular-rational vs. traditional, and survival vs. self-expression. The data thus produced turned out to be interesting too. Again, quoting the formulation in the abstract:
"...culture moderated the shame response among sighted athletes: it was less pronounced among individuals from highly individualistic, self-expression-valuing cultures, primarily in North America and West Eurasia."
As the authors note, their findings don't settle the questions, even though they're interesting and important. One limitation is that while it seems reasonable to suppose that winners felt pride and losers shame, this wasn't directly measured. Also, the presence of an audience in all cases leaves open the possibility that the behaviours were in some sense "intentional social communications", although as they also note this seems considerably less likely for the congenitally blind. There's more to find out, but it does seem very likely that there's a significant universal component to the non-verbal expression of pride and shame, that may go on to be subject to cultural modulation.
This research has also been written up elsewhere, including BPS Research Digest, Wired and MindHacks.
Here's the full text of the abstract:
The present research examined whether the recognizable nonverbal expressions associated with pride and shame may be biologically innate behavioral responses to success and failure. Specifically, we tested whether sighted, blind, and congenitally blind individuals across cultures spontaneously display pride and shame behaviors in response to the same success and failure situations—victory and defeat at the Olympic or Paralympic Games. Results showed that sighted, blind, and congenitally blind individuals from >30 nations displayed the behaviors associated with the prototypical pride expression in response to success. Sighted, blind, and congenitally blind individuals from most cultures also displayed behaviors associated with shame in response to failure. However, culture moderated the shame response among sighted athletes: it was less pronounced among individuals from highly individualistic, self-expression-valuing cultures, primarily in North America and West Eurasia. Given that congenitally blind individuals across cultures showed the shame response to failure, findings overall are consistent with the suggestion that the behavioral expressions associated with both shame and pride are likely to be innate, but the shame display may be intentionally inhibited by some sighted individuals in accordance with cultural norms.(The answer to the opening question is, incidentally, that you can't tell by looking and that as it happens the athlete on the right is the congenitally blind individual. This pair of images is figure 3 in the paper.)
Tracy, J.L., Matsumoto, D. (2008). The spontaneous expression of pride and shame: Evidence for biologically innate nonverbal displays. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(33), 11655-11660. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0802686105