Fake smiles can be done with feeling

The ‘Duchenne smile’ is thought to be a largely unfakeable expression of pleasure that involves a signature ‘crinkling around the eyes’ caused by automatic muscles. A new study covered by PsyBlog pours cold water on this popular idea by reporting that most people can produce undetectable fake smiles that involve these supposedly involuntary movements.

It has been suggested that 80% of us are unable to conjure up a fake smile that will trick others because we don’t have voluntary control over the muscles around our eyes which signal the Duchenne smile…

Writing in a recent issue of the journal Emotion, however, Krumhuber and Manstead (2009) question whether this 80% estimate is anywhere near the mark. In the first of a series of experiments they found that 83% of the people in their study could produce fake smiles that others mistook for the real thing in photographs.

The researchers also explored how people perceived genuine and fake smiles when they saw videos rather than just static pictures. Then it emerged that fake smiles were easier to spot, but the supposedly crucial crinkling around the eyes didn’t help much.

Instead, telling a real from fake smile relied more on dynamic processes such as how long people hold it, the symmetry of the expression and whether conflicting emotions are communicated by other facial areas.

Link to PsyBlog on ‘Duchenne: Key to a Genuine Smile?’

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