Smiles Across the World
A smile is a universal facial
expression that communicates
People smile for many other reasons
such as smiling for a picture or if
they find something funny or
Sometimes people smile out of
A smile can often be used as a sign
of confidence or agreement
Did We Learn to Smile?
Researchers claim facial expressions are innate, not something babies learn to
do by watching the people around them
Our facial expressions are
a system of unconscious
scientists say developed
before our language and
even before our birth.
Athletes who were born blind smile with victory just like athletes who can see. We also
instantly return a smile, even before our conscious brain is aware of the emotion being
Anatomy of a Smile
Paris physician Guillaume B.A. Duchenne was treating a
patient with facial neuralgia in the 1840’s when he noticed
that electrical current caused the underlying muscle to
contract and cause facial expressions.
The current was too painful for experiments on living
patients. So Duchenne, started to work with the freshly
severed heads of executed criminals.
The cadavers didn’t display the sort of joyful smile
Duchenne would later describe as "put in play by the
sweet emotions of the soul." But by applying electrodes
he found he could make the muscles contract into facial
expressions, including the smile. (Conniff 2007)
“Duchenne demonstrated for the first time the nature of human facial expressions.
He argued that smiling, and other expressions, constitute a universal language,
"which neither fashions nor whims can change . . . the same in all people, in
savages and civilized nations." (Conniff 2007)
A smile is a universal language but not all
cultures are as free to smile as others
People may feel a duty to smile in some situations;
in others, a smile may not be expected. Such
differences vary in different countries and
demonstrate that smiling reflects important cultural
In Western cultures it’s polite to smile
when meeting someone. Smiles are
necessary when greeting or having a
The more a person smiles the more
friendly he/she is perceived
In some cultures people have learned to control their
natural instinct to smile.
Some Asian cultures smile less because of social
pressure that discourages emotional displays.
In Japan a smile is not seen as often as in America.
Japanese people living in the United States pick up on the
American tradition of smiling and tend to smile more than those
living in Japan.
Volunteers in China are learning how to smile for the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. They’ve been
getting training on how to smile by biting down on chopsticks. They are told to show only eight teeth
in order to appear friendly without looking "goofy.“
Russians don’t smile out of politeness. It’s considered in poor taste to smile
without a reason. A constant polite smile is considered a “smile on duty” in
Russia and shows people’s insincerity, and unwillingness to show real feelings.
Moscow State University Facebook
•It’s not typical for Russians
to smile at a person whose
eyes meet by chance
•A Russian does not
normally give a smile in
•Russians do not smile
when working or doing
(Levine and Adelman 1993)
A Russian smile is a sign of personal attraction
“It’s a complicated relationship”
A Russian smile shows that a smiling person likes you or they are close to you. Russians
do not normally show that type of affection to strangers.
Indian Prime Minister
In Russia a smile is the expression of either high spirits or a good attitude to a partner.
A Russian needs a reason to smile, which is evident to others. It gives a person the right to
smile from others’ point of view.
The Russian language has the unique proverb missing in other languages, “Laughter without
reasons is the sign of foolishness or psychological problems.”
In Germany a smile for no particular reason will not get a reaction or a smile in return. If
there is a reason to smile the Germans will do so but they find our American culture too
quick to smile.
Who Smiles the Most?
The smile (yim in Thai) is perceived in
Thailand as being the most
appropriate reaction to any possible
It's used to show
happiness, embarrassment, fear, tensi
on, resignation, and remorse.
In American, English, and Finnish countries smiles are
necessary when greeting or having a polite conversation.
Age and Gender Differences
• In all cultures there is a
tendency for women and
children to smile and use more
nonverbal gestures than men
• In children - both sexes smile
• Studies show women are
more emotionally expressive
and sensitive than men and
that’s why they smile more
often. (Manusov and Patterson
• Older women smile less than
• Women also receive more
smiles from others than men
(Manusov and Patterson 2006)
“Everyone smiles in the same language”
“The shortest distance between two people is a smile”
“Wear a smile and have friends; wear a scowl and have wrinkles”
Peace begins with a smile
Abel, M. H. (2002). An empirical reflection on the smile. Mellen studies in psychology, v. 4. Lewiston: Edwin Mellen
Conniff, Richard. (2007). What’s behind a smile?. Smithsonian. 38. 46-53. Retrieved
April 4, 2008, from Readers' Guide database.
Ekman, P., & Rosenberg, E. L. (1997). What the face reveals: basic and applied studies of spontaneous expression
using the facial action coding system (FACS). Series in affective science. New York: Oxford University Press.
Google Images. (2008). Retrieved April 5, 2008, from http://images.google.com/.
Hinde, R. A. (1972). Non-verbal communication. Cambridge [Eng.]: University Press.
Levine, D. R., & Adelman, M. B. (1993). Beyond language: cross-cultural communication. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.:
Prentice Hall Regents.
Manusov, V. L., & Patterson, M. L. (2006). The SAGE handbook of nonverbal communication. Thousand Oaks, Calif:
The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. (2008). Beijing 2008. Retrieved April 12, 2008, from
Uba, L. (1994). Asian Americans: personality patterns, identity, and mental health. New York: Guilford Press.
Wierzbicka, Anna. (1998). Russian emotional expression. Ethos. 26. 456-483. Retrieved April 4, 2008, from JSTOR
Wikimedia. (2008). Duchenne de Boulogne. Retrieved April 5, 2008, from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/.