Since Kindergarten, children are taught to associate certain emotions with certain facial expressions. This social norm is reinforced consistently throughout childhood. One of the most mundane of these is that smiling represents happiness, friendliness, and joy. However, as we examine the world around us, we find ourselves asking, ‘Why do people really smile?’ This study will seek to determine the times that adults smile, and what emotions they are really feeling at the time. LITERATURE REVIEW Before exploring the sociological aspects of the encoding and decoding of facial expressions, we must first set strict guidelines for what can be regarded as a smile, or other facial expression.
Evidence of many forms, including genetic and behavioral, confirms that primates and humans are close relatives. Since facial expressions are inevitably constrained by biological facial components (i. e. brow, eyelids, mouth, corners, lips, etc.
), apes seem like a likely source of research for this topic. (Preuschoft, 2000) After extensive studies of non-human primates and human beings alike, Preuschoft was able to determine several basic guidelines for human facial expressions. When angry, it is common for humans, chimps, and monkeys to all tense their lips. This act of ‘frowning’ is over 5 million years old.
... Duchenne smiles (96%) as opposed to gold and bronze medalists from other countries (47%). This study of facial expressions further ... favor of culture-specific expressions. Therefore, universal emotions may serve as a very fundamental framework among all humans; yet, it is ... still be observed in animals because the civilization of humans would suppress such instinctual tendencies. A common example is ...
When sad, humans are known to weep. This entails drooping the upper eyelid, turning the mouth down, and stretching the lips. Chimps exhibit a similar face for sadness, but the shedding of tears is a uniquely human phenomenon. (Preuschoft, 2000) The human ‘fear face’ consists of raised eyebrows, frowning, wide eyes, a slightly open mouth, stretched lips, and partial exposure of teeth. To express disgust, humans wrinkle and raise their noses.
This is also unique. Expressions of happiness include laughter (unmistakable vocalization) and the classic smile. (Preuschoft, 2000) Charles Darwin once suggested that the muscle movements within animals that were originally used for survival purposes eventually allowed other animals to predict their behavior. This theory also can carry over to the social aspects of human existence as well (Knutson, 1998).
Predictions are most likely made toward the most distant future based upon immediate facial expressions of another (Knutson, 1998).
The “Interpersonal Circumflex” is a circle with octagonal sections representative of emotions that may be expressed using a facial contortion. This circle is split into two halves by “dominance” and “affiliation’ axes (Knutson, 1998).
Only those emotions used in social exchange are represented. This model is generally embraced and correct when measured with the degree of affiliation and dominance of an expression, with the only real flaw being culture (only in Westernized cultures does a lowered brow signify dominance [Knutson, 1998]).
This being noted, it can be said that the use of the mouth and the brow are most likely the main forces behind expressions and their dominance and affiliation.
To prove this, 2 experiments were conducted with 36 undergraduate college students each as the sample. Experiment 1 addresses how facial expressions can alter interpersonal inferences, and experiment 2 does the same, but with moving faces (Knutson, 1998).
The experiments’ results generally agreed with the predictions (that they do alter inferences), but some surprises were encountered, such as high dominance and affiliation being recorded in happy faces, and sad or fearful expressions being recorded in sad faces. Aside from these deviance’s, it can be stated that expressions not only indicate how the person is feeling at the time, but can also help to predict the further actions and feelings of the person. The earliest studies of human smiles were conducted in 1862 by Duchenne de Boulogne. He determined that there are up to 18 distinct ways to smile.
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Of these variations, he determined that one which is most often displayed as a sign of joy and named it the ‘Duchenne Smile’. (Szpir, 1994) Boulogne determined that such a smile is formed through the contraction of two specific muscle groups. First, the zygomatic major muscle which reaches down from the cheekbones across the face and attaches to the corners of the mouth. This movement leads to the raising of the corners of the mouth and thus the formation of the crescent shaped expression known to everyone. (Szpir, 1994) There is also a second component to smiling, that is described as “a critical marker of sincerely felt joy.” This consists of a lateral movement of the obricularis oculi, which stretches the skin horizontally away from the eyes. This is observable in that it causes ‘crows feet’ to appear on the outsides of the eyes of anyone making this movement.
(Szpir, 1994) Therefore, a smile that reflects true happiness or joy will always be characterized by the crows feet alongside the eyes, and any smile that lacks this tell tale feature is a reflection of something else. Another study was more specific in quantification of smiles. Rather than the usual approach of using pictures of models depicting various emotions, Katsikitis, Pilowsky, and Innes used computer line art to depict smiles as simple lines. These images were determined by measuring the displacement of certain facial landmarks during smiling gathered according to the Facial Action Coding System (FACS).
(Katsikitis, Pilowsky, & Innes, 1997) The researchers displayed slides to 208 undergraduates, predominately male, with an average age of 19. 9 years. The slides showed smiles in 5 stages of development, and the subjects were asked to rate on a scale from one to nine the degree to which each slide looked like a smile. The studies primary conclusions were that computer modeling could be used in research involving facial expressions. It was also found that women performed better than men at recognizing these expressions. (Katsikitis et al, 1997) More recent work has built upon these theories and shown something very interesting.
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Using electroencephalographs, or EEGs, David Ekman and RJ Davidson tracked the electrical activities that occur within the brain when participants express Duchenne smiles. After determining a link, they asked the same subjects to think happy thoughts. Not surprisingly, the EEGs showed a direct link between brain activity, centered in the front left hemisphere of the brain of happy thoughts and smiles. Ekman and Davidson then instructed participants to illicit a Duchenne smile with no context for doing so, in essence ‘faking it’. Surprisingly, he found that the same brain activity occurred. (Szpir, 1994) The researchers interpreted this to mean that exhibiting a facial expression, in this case smiling, that is known to symbolize certain emotions may actually help illicit the emotions.
This is similar to research discovered by Stanislavsky that actors will do exercises in order to truly ‘feel’ their character. (Szpir, 1994) Therefore, the overall conclusion that can be drawn from this study is that ‘Smiling when your not happy can actually make you feel happy’. This has enormous social ramifications. Facial expressions tie into the study of Sociology in several ways. First, that smiling is one of the most salient forms of symbolic interaction.
Smiles not only are for the benefit of the smiler, but they speak eons to those interacting with the smiler. George Herbert Mead suggested that people anticipate what others expect of them and shape their actions accordingly. He postulated there were 2 components to the self, the ‘I’ and the ‘me’. (Glencoe & McGraw-Hill 2003) Our study hopes to draw a distinct line between these two by determining whether people smile because they want to, or because they feel they should.
Goffman suggested that individuals play different roles and adjust their roles according to particular situations. This is known as dramaturgy. (Glencoe & McGraw-Hill 2003) This conflict between ‘I’ and ‘Me’ was developed further by Nowicki and Mufson. The two built on earlier research which determined that each individual has a locus of control.
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(Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) This locus of control determines where the ultimate power of decision making as to social behavior and recognition of social signals exists. Individuals who exhibit an internal locus of control are more sovereign in their behavior, whereas those who exhibit an external locus of control are more reliant upon others for reinforcement. (Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) Further, individuals were also categorized according to the degree of self monitoring they established. Self monitoring “is related to the extent to which one’s behavior is affected by situational-interpersonal cues as opposed to internal dispositions.” (Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) This theory essentially quantifies Goffman’s theory of dramaturgy; that people play different roles depending upon different social situations. Individuals who exhibit low self monitoring are also likely to have an internal locus of control, and conversely, those who display high self monitoring will have an external locus.
(Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) This builds upon the earlier work done by Mead. Individuals who have a more dominant ‘I’ will be categorized as having an internal locus of control and exhibiting low self monitoring while individuals who are defined more in the ‘Me’ will be high self monitors and exhibit and external locus of control. (Glencoe & McGraw-Hill 2003) These aspects of the self are related to verbal expression by Rotter’s social reaming theory. Rotter postulized that “nonverbal behaviors are determined by a joint function of expectancy of reinforcement for that behavior and the subjective value of the reinforcement itself.” (Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) Therefore, non-verbal communication, including facial expressions such as smiling are essential for determining collective self.
Nowicki and Mufson sought to clarify these relationships. Based on Rotter’s theory, they hypothesized that individuals who exhibited high self monitoring and an internal locus of control would be best able recognize various facial expressions. (Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) They used a sample of 275 undergraduate college students in their 1991 study. Subjects were first given a test developed in 1974 to determine the degree to which they practice self monitoring. They were then tested to determine where their locus of control of reinforcement lied. After completing these preliminaries, the subjects were administered the Brief Affect Recognition Test (BART).
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This test consisted of a series of 110 black and white photographs of both male and female adult models who were instructed on how to depict 6 different emotions; sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and happiness. (Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) Their responses were then cross referenced to determine how individuals with various loci of control and self monitoring performed. The results confirmed the general hypothesis of the researchers. Additionally, they found that women performed better overall than did men, regardless of self monitoring or locus of control. Further, some of the subjects were instructed that performance on the BART was linked to social competence. Men who received such instructions performed much better than did those who received no instructions.
(Nowicki & Mufson, 1991) The same sociological implications are also present in primate society. Human beings often run into the problem of sending ‘mixed messages’ when verbal and non-verbal communication do not match. With apes, this problem does not exist because there is no form of verbal communication to study. Therefore, facial expressions are used to acquire a response form the receiver of the expression. It serves as an appeal if the receiver can correctly understand and interpret the message. (Preuschoft, 2000) An observation of some interactions between two Ton kean Marque Apes, Cathie and Beattie illustrates this point.
Cathie attempted to touch Beattie’s child, but then flinched and peered at Beattie. Beattie looked at Cathie, scratched herself, looked around, and yawned. Cathie then glanced at Beattie and moved closer, grooming her arm and shoulder while smacking her lips. Eventually, Beattie allowed her child to start playing with Cathie.
This seemingly simple interaction was very concisely interpreted. The flinching, scratching, and yawning represent Beattie’s uneasiness and her demand for assurance. Cathie’s grooming and lip smacking express her friendly intentions. Cathy receives this message and consents to the play.
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(Preuschoft, 2000) This shows just how important facial expressions are in sending social messages. Additional research has shown that persons with mental disabilities have diminished capability to recognize facial expressions. A normal human being can accurately detect facial expressions 80% of the time. However, research has shown that individuals with mental retardation, autism, schizophrenia, and emotional imbalances are less proficient at recognizing correct expressions. Further, children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD were only found able to recognize the 6 basic facial expressions of emotion from photographs 74% of the time.
(Singh and Ellis, 1998) People with brain damage were the subject of intense observation. In theory, both hemispheres of the brain work in a complimentary manner. If this were to hold true, then individuals with damage to only the left hemisphere would perform comparably to individuals with damage to only the right hemisphere. However, it was shown that the right side of the brain is predominant in recognition of facial expressions. As a result, people with damage only to the left hemisphere do perform better than those with right side damage. (Singh and Ellis, 1998) METHOD Our field research used a combination of several methods to achieve our objectives.
Our sample consisted of 36 randomly selected people working as sales associates of one type or another in the Clifton Park Center shopping mall. For 50% of our subjects, we took a covert approach. We posed as customers, noting the base facial expression of our subjects. We then made aims to placate and antagonize the subject, once again recording facial expression. Careful attention was paid to be especially certain to note the presence or absence of ‘crows feet’ near the eyes indicating a Duchenne smile as opposed to a non-Duchenne smile. The advantages to this approach are that subjects will act completely honestly because they do not know the objectives of the study.
The disadvantages are that there is a great opportunity for errors committed by the researchers in conducting the study. For the remaining 50% of our subjects, we took a direct approach. We approached them and identified ourselves as students working on a sociology project. We then asked them what facial expressions they would render and how they would feel when customers first entered the store, when customers attempted to make them happy, and specifically when customers antagonized them. The advantages to this approach were that they eliminated the possibility for error on the part of the researcher. The disadvantages were that we relied completely on the honesty of others to ensure the accuracy of data.
Use of a more quantitative means of measuring facial expression (such as FACS) was impossible, due to the covert nature of the study. Afterward, we interviewed the subjects, revealed our aims, and asked them what emotions they were feeling when dealing with us. It should be noted that our research is actually much different than previous studies. Whereas the authors of the literature we reviewed used analysis of their subjects to determine their proficiency in decoding facial expressions, we ourselves were the subjects in a strange sense; we decoded the facial expressions that the individuals gave us, and then interviewed them afterward. No other researchers gave the subjects this opportunity, and this is the main reason why our study is unique.
HYPOTHESIS In light of the information gathered related to this subject, we hypothesize that subjects will express non-Duchenne smiles when antagonized. Further, we expect that female subjects will be more likely to conform to this pattern than will male subjects. DISCUSSION The data upholds upholds our hypothesis. Once antagonized, the majority (50%) expressed a ‘fake’ or Non-Duchenne smile rather than an expression of anger. This holds true to the literature we reviewed.
People could have smiled even while antagonized because they felt that it was their duty to do so. When working in retail, it is expected that sales associates be subritent. In accordance with Erving Goffman’s theories of dramaturgy, these associates acted the part that they believed was expected of them. It also can be cited as proof of Rotter’s social reaming theory in that their non-verbal behaviors (Exhibiting a Non-Duchenne smile) were based on the expectancy of social reinforcement for their actions.
The results of this study also serve as further evidence in support of George Herbert Mead’s theories on symbolic interaction ism. The majority of participants in our study displayed un genuine emotions by exhibiting non-Duchenne smiles when they were angry. This may also be seen as reinforcing a more positive image of oneself. The data clearly shows a dominant component of the ‘me’ in both regulating behavior but also of forming self image. This also coincides with the research done by Nowicki and Mufson. It can be inferred that the subjects who most closely conformed to our hypothesis were those that exhibited high self-monitoring and had an internal locus of control.
It was proven that these individuals were best able to recognize the facial expressions of others, thus reflected by their predicted response to our social stimuli. Perhaps additional future research could perform examinations to determine the levels of self monitoring and locus of control to prove these theories absolutely. A more obscure motive for participants exhibiting non-Duchenne smiles when angry could stem from the work done by Ekman. If we accept the theory that smiling affects brain function to essentially ‘make someone happier’, then the correlation can be drawn that those participants that smiled were doing so in a subconscious attempt to feel more happy and less angry. This makes sense in context.
People at work are probably less happy than those who are not work. People may smile on the job to appear polite or because they are required to, but because they are genuinely trying to improve their mood. The second part of our hypothesis, that women would be more likely to illicit non-Duchenne smiles when angry than would males was also proven. Of those 18 that conformed to our hypothesis, 11 were female, or 61% and 7 were male, representing 39%.
The possible explanation for this is that women generally are more socially conscious than men. This was proven by the work done by Nowicki and Mufson; women were greater self monitors and exhibited a more external locus of control. This accounts for their ‘faker’ performance in our study. As students, we faced many limitations that prevented us from being more accurate and conclusive. A greater sample size would have helped to prevent anomalies and added to the reliability of trends found in the data. Future research in this field should focus on profiling the subjects in order to more effectively assess their mental state before partaking in research.
While we were able to prove that people smile when mad, we were unable to provide an accurate answer as to why. Several possible answers have been presented, and authenticating them could be another focus of future research. To tie all loose ends together in one intangible knot, it is nearly impossible to form absolute theories about facial expressions and what they mean. Infants begin smiling almost from birth. There are a plethora of both sociological and psychological factors and reasons that govern this simplest of human behaviors. We were able to prove that people will often give fake smiles even when angry, and that females will do this more often than males.
But more work remains to be done in this field. This study has only scratched the surface of an ocean in which social scientists will be deep sea diving for generations to come.