Functional smiles: tools for love, sympathy, and war

Magdalena Rychlowska, Rachael E. Jack, Oliver Garrod, Philippe G. Schyns, Jared Martin, Paula M. Niedenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)
178 Downloads (Pure)


A smile is the most frequent facial expression, but not all smiles are equal. A social-functional account holds that smiles of reward, affiliation, and dominance serve basic social functions, including rewarding behavior, bonding socially,
and negotiating hierarchy. Here, we characterize the facial-expression patterns associated with these three types of smiles. Specifically, we modeled the facial expressions using a data-driven approach and showed that reward smiles
are symmetrical and accompanied by eyebrow raising, affiliative smiles involve lip pressing, and dominance smiles are asymmetrical and contain nose wrinkling and upper-lip raising. A Bayesian-classifier analysis and a detection
task revealed that the three smile types are highly distinct. Finally, social judgments made by a separate participant group showed that the different smile types convey different social messages. Our results provide the first detailed
description of the physical form and social messages conveyed by these three types of functional smiles and document the versatility of these facial expressions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1259
Number of pages1270
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sep 2017

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