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Honest smile
A closer look at Smileymorphosis

Let's be honest, everybody likes to smile. Sadly enough, not every smile is always interpreted correctly.

People smile for all sorts of reasons, only one of which is to signal happiness. Paul Ekman author of Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage describes many kinds of smiles, from the "felt" or true smile to the fear smile, the contempt smile, the dampened smile, the miserable smile, and a number of others.

Daniel McNeill, author of The Face: A Natural History, says, "Smiling is innate and appears in infants almost from birth....The first smiles appear two to twelve hours after birth and seem void of content. Infants simply issue them, and they help parents bond. We respond; they don't know what they're doing. The second phase of smiling begins sometime between the fifth week and fourth month. It is the "social smile," in which the infant smiles while fixing its gaze on a person's face."

Whatever their origin or motivation, smiles have a powerful effect on us humans. As McNeill points out, "Though courtroom judges are equally likely to find smilers and nonsmilers guilty, they give smilers lighter penalties, a phenomenon called the 'smile-leniency effect.'"


Source: "The Truth Behind the Smile and Other Myths" Harvard Management Communication Letter, Vol. 5, No. 8, August 2002. Written by Nick Morgan