It was in 1924 when an unusual experiment in the University of Minnesota showed us the types of smile that we never noticed before, the ones that are purely unrecognisable. This made us learn that there are 19 types of smiles and just 6 out of 19 is happiness driven.
The experiment was of a grad student Carney Landis where he assembled some of his mates, teachers, and psychology patients. Landis wanted to know whether different experiences brought the same facial expressions for these people. He made his army face various bizarre pranks and photographed them for three hours. And at last gave them a white rat to behead.
What the photographs revealed is shocking. Most people reacted to even the most extreme conditions with weirdest of smiles. The man found no other expression more typical than smiles for most of the situations.
We generally take the often smiling people as happy and good-at-the-heart people. But these results may make us think the other way round. The experiment brought in to open the 19 different types of smiles out of which merely six were for happiness. So every smile isn’t that smiley. Some can just be the masks to hide the inner feeling.
Here we analyse some of the not so happy types of smile that we may come across.
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A neurologist of the 19th century, Duchenne de Boulogne was the father of electrotherapy. He was keen on the mechanics of facial expressions. Once he got a man with facial insensitivity. He did an experiment on him attaching electrodes on his face. He displayed a series of smiles through his photographs. One of the most famous ones captured a man with a wide toothless grin and crows feet around his eyes. The kind of smile has since then been called the Duchenne smile.
A Duchenne smile might well seem to be quite natural, but some scientists find it a lot similar to chimpanzees’ afraid grins. We never think that a smile can even be a result of fear, but there has been enough evidence of it as well. The wide grin that we often take as the most natural smile is generally what is seen when a person is afraid of something.
Smiles are spontaneous but not always because of joy. A slight asymmetry in smile lines and an enduring grin often comes out of misery. This gives a deep sadness expression despite the smile. Many people involved in the Landis experiment showed such smirks while they were into an offensive movie.
There was a time when smiling with teeth wide open wasn’t classy. It was believed to be the poor man’s job. It was later brought in by some French nobles. Many places never saw this change. You can easily suppress the face muscles involved in smiling, and that’s what damp smile is all about. It’s a smile that comes out when one tries to suppress his natural happy smile.
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An embarrassed smile is a lot similar to the damp one. Either the flushing of cheeks or the reason for embarrassment tells you the story. Another spot-on sign is the person moving the head down and a bit to the left side.
Now, this smile is to ease off the communication of bad news. It has an abrupt start with a slight raise of the lower lip followed by a slight sideways tilt of the head downwards. So when a person tells you something that may disappoint you, you can see this smile, and that can’t be for anything happy.
This smile comes off in a situation of utter contempt. This has mixed emotions of revulsion and hurt. The smile can be almost identical to the one of joy except for the lips that look a lot more tightened.
The malicious joy
This smile is seen pretty often. The type of smile often marks the lightening of one’s face when the person discovers the loss of another person. When the person knows that someone’s been watching, wearing a fake expression of anger over the smile seems an easy way out. So the creepy smile behind seems like of anger but is of pure joy.
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Now, this smile gets easily caught. As Duchenne suggested, when a smile is real it involves that person’s eyes. So when you don’t see those crow’s feet near the eyes, don’t buy that the smile is real. They’re faking it up.
So these were some of the best examples of how a smile is not always about happiness. There can be much more types of smile. So the next time you spot a person smiling, try to place the category that smile falls in.
Which one of these types of smile surprise you the most?