Posted in Happiness, Health and lifestyle

Real vs. Fake Smiles – can we tell the difference?

The science behind smiling

When we feel good, our brain feels good and tells us to smile, but did you know that the reverse is also true? Smiling can change our brain, through the powerful feedback loop. When we smile (even when you don’t feel like smiling), we send signals to our brain which activates happy chemicals in our brain called endorphins, which instantly make us feel good. So putting on a forced, fake smile can will make you feel happy instantly!

Real vs. Fake Smiles – can we tell the difference?


Whenever we smile, there are 2 main muscles involved. The first one is the zygomaticus major and it controls the corners of your mouth. If this is the muscle only activated, it’s not actually a genuine smile. Scientists call this also the “social” smile. The second muscle, known to show sincerity is the obicularis occuli and it encircles our eyes.

The true smile also called the duchenne smile, named after the scientist who discovered this. Here is a comparison:


Our brain can in fact distinguish very easily between what’s real and what’s fake. It’s all in the eyes…



Abel, E. L., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21 , 542–544.

Goldberg, L. S., & Grandey, A. A. (2007). Display rules versus display autonomy: Emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and task performance in a call center simulation. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12, 301-318.

Harker, L. A., & Keltner, D. (2001). Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80 , 112–124.

Kraft, Tara L., & Pressman, Sarah D. (2012). Grin and bear it: The influence of manipulated facial expression on the stress response. Psychological Science.

Orne, Martin T. (1962). On the social psychology of the psychological experiment: With particular reference to demand characteristics and their implications. American Psychologist, 17, 776–783.

Peterson, C., & Xydis, K. (2011). Positive psychology for health and fitness professionals. Tucson, AZ: DSWFitness.




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