Smiles in different cultures

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Chapter 3 endnote 18, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

Perhaps sometime in the last few hundred years, smiling became a universal, stereotyped gesture symbolizing happiness. Or... perhaps smiling in happiness is simply not universal.

Research by the social psychologist Paula Niedenthal and her colleagues shows that a smile means different things in different cultures.[1][2] People who belong to cultures where there is a lot of migration report that smiling signals their interest in forming social relationships with other people, while people who belong to more stable cultures report that smiling maintains relative status and power.

Smiles are also more flexible that was first thought. A broad-grinned Duchenne smile, which the classical view holds up as the epitome of a natural and spontaneous expression, can actually be deliberately posed with ease, particularly when one person wants to influence or persuade another person.[3][4]


Notes on the Notes

  1. Rychlowska, Magdalena, Yuri Miyamoto, David Matsumoto, Ursula Hess, Eva Gilboa-Schechtman, Shanmukh Kamble, Hamdi Muluk, Takahiko Masuda, and Paula Marie Niedenthal. 2015. “Heterogeneity of Long-History Migration Explains Cultural Differences in Reports of Emotional Expressivity and the Functions of Smiles.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112 (19): E2429–E2436.
  2. Ishii, Keiko, Yuri Miyamoto, Kotomi Mayama, and Paula M. Niedenthal. 2011. "When your smile fades away: Cultural differences in sensitivity to the disappearance of smiles." Social Psychological and Personality Science 2: 516-522.
  3. Gunnery, Sarah D., Judith A. Hall, and Mollie A. Ruben. 2013. "The deliberate Duchenne smile: Individual differences in expressive control." Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 37 (1): 29-41.
  4. Gunnery, Sarah D., and Judith A. Hall. 2014. "The Duchenne smile and persuasion." Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 38 (2): 181-194.