September 13, 2012 ( — It’s hard to imagine how one is still able to smile after arriving late to an important meeting. However, there are actually several reasons why people smile. These can often include politeness, amusement, happiness, or even frustration. Keep in mind, smiling is the most common biologically uniform expression of human beings. With the use of 3D ultrasound technology, scientists are now able to see that even in the womb of a pregnant woman developing babies appear to be smiling.

For many years, scientists have tried to figure out the mechanisms involved in smiling. Dr. Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne, a French scientist in the 19th century, was the first to study the mechanisms involved in smiling.

Consequently, it was from his name the term “Duchenne Smile” was derived. Duchenne smile is the recognized true or real smile of Psychological Institutions and is determined using the Duchene markers. These involve the contraction of the orbicularis oculi, the muscle around the eye, and the contraction of the zygomaticus major, the muscle that is responsible for raising the corners of the lips. Smiles that lack these markers are referred to as “masking,” “false,” and “Non-Duchenne” smiles (Neidental, Mermillod, Maringer, Hess, 2010).

The work of Dr. Duchenne was further studied by Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen at the University of California in 1970. They defined smiling as the upward turn of the corners of the lips, as produced by the contraction of the zygomaticus major muscle. Friesen and Ekman used their scheme to revive Duchenne’s distinction between genuine smiles of enjoyment and other types of smiles. According to their research, the dynamic features of smiles, which include symmetry, smoothness, duration, and synchronicity, may also distinguish true and false smiles (Mai, Ge, Tao, Tang, Liu, Luo, 2011).

The Pan Am Smile, or the Pan American Smile, is another term that coined fake smiles. In the 1930s, Howard Hughes, owner of the Pan-American World Airways, required all flight attendants or stewardesses to be attentive, modest, and consistently smile at passengers. However, their smiles were widely criticized as false smiles. Consequently, smiles that are perceived to be false are now referred to as Pan Am smiles (Bloom, 2007).

4 Tips to Determine Real Smiles

1. Recognize the Eyes of the Subject
One’s focus should be on the orbicularis oculi, the muscles that surround the eyes. Notice the presence of wrinkles on the sides of both eyes while the subject is smiling. This supports Duchenne’s marker for real smiles, the contraction of the orbicularis oculi. If this marker is present, then you can say that the subject’s smile is real.

2. Recognize the Lips of the Subject
The muscle that surrounds the mouth, the zygomaticus major, should correspond with the contraction of the orbicularis oculi. Notice the upward movement of the cheeks together with the presence of wrinkles on the sides of the eyes. The orbicularis oculi is an involuntary muscle, and therefore the mouth muscle cannot move upward by itself to produce a false smile.

3. Observe Symmetry of Facial Expression
Based on the research of Elkman, genuine smiles are symmetrical. This means that the right and left sides of the face should move correspondingly. With this in mind, it’s a bit easier to keep an eye out for false smiles, which would involve movement on only one side of the face or the mouth.

4. Observe the Body Movement and the Duration of Smiles
Also based on the research of Elkman, it’s possible to use body movement and duration to quantify a smile. A real smile should last long enough for one to be able to recognize it as real. It should also be supported by a positive body language like longer eye contact and leaning or moving closer.

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