Is it friendliness, or something else? Your gut instinct will certainly tell you.
As the title to a recent study states, “certain smiles aren’t all they’re cracked up to be”.
Smiles are supposed to be good for you, right? We’ve all had those days when a friend’s happy face truly helps to change your mood. Science says that it takes many muscles in your face to frown and far fewer to grin, and that simply smiling for the sake of it, or faking a laugh until you truly feel it, is good for alleviating tension and raising your spirits. And that’s easy to believe.
But not all smiles are so helpful, research has found. If you’re subjected to a smile of dominance, it will cause you some stress.
So called ‘dominance smiles’ are generated as a sign of disapproval, and challenge social standings.
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Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Bar-Ilan University in Canada found when someone perceives this type of non-verbal disapproval their heart rate increases, as well as the cortisol in their saliva.
The effect of “receiving” a dominance smile, in essence, mirrors that of being the recipient of negative verbal feedback.
In contrast, positive smiles- also labeled as ‘reward’ or ‘affiliation’ smiles by those in the study- tend to be good for us. They can signal a lack of threat and ease and maintain social bonds.
So, what to do next time you witness an expression that’s, well, not so sweet? Perhaps return it, and move on. Seek out a real one and the positive vibes that go with it.
Photo credits: Tuzemka/Shutterstock.com