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Psychology of Smiling




Smiling, we all do it (well most of us do and perhaps we've not been doing it as much lately) but have you ever thought about asking your students why they smile? I'm talking about a proper smile, not a false here comes the boss type smile.


There are two broad schools of thought concerning the psychology of smiling.


1. Smiling is primarily an individual act. We smile as a result of an inner feeling of happiness.


2. Smiling is primarily a social act. We smile to let those around us know that we are happy.

Ingenious Research

In attempting to answer the why we smile question, Robert Kraut and Robert Johnston from Cornell University decided to go bowling! Kraut and Johnston realized that happiness associated with good bowling, say bowling a strike or a spare provided the pefect opportunity to test the individual Vs Social smiling hypotheses.


The logic behind conducting research in this context is simple but brilliant. At the moment you bowl a strike you are essentially alone, you're not facing anybody, you're looking at the fallen pins, that happiness is all yours. Then shortly after you turn to face your fellow bowlers, family, team mates etc, it's time to share your happiness.


And the winner is?


Social smiling. 4% of bowlers smiled after hitting a strike or spare when facing away from fellow players compared to 42% of bowlers who smiled when they turned round to face other people having hit a strike or spare.


In discussing his research findings Robert Kraut stated:



The smile is a facial response that is recognized around the globe and helps bind people together. We are indeed a "social animal," and the smile is a central way we communicate. I once did a study that blew up in my face because I asked a group of participants not to smile for three days – and they absolutely could not do it.


Can You Spot A Fake Smile?



The Hidden Power of Smiling



Further Reading


The Psychological Study of Smiling


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