A smile can mean a lot of things. Dictionary.com defines smile as: (1) to assume a facial expression indicating pleasure, favor, or amusement, but sometimes derision or scorn, characterized by an upturning of the corners of the mouth, and (2) to regard with favor (quote source here). A smile can be a genuine show of happiness, gratefulness, approval or sincerity; or it can be sarcastic, sardonic, mean spirited or totally fake (as in the “smiling faces” mentioned in a 1972 song by The Staple Singers–YouTube Video is below).
In a devotion published on July 2, 2020, in Our Daily Bread titled, “Talking Bananas,” by Jennifer Benson Schuldt, writer, blogger, and a contributor to Our Daily Bread, she writes about the encouraging side of a smile:
Never give up. Be the reason someone smiles. You’re amazing. It isn’t where you came from—it’s where you’re going that counts. Some school children in Virginia Beach, Virginia, found these messages and more written on bananas in their lunchroom. Cafeteria manager Stacey Truman took the time to write the encouraging notes on the fruit, which the kids dubbed “talking bananas.”
This caring outreach reminds me of Barnabas’ heart for the “spiritual youngsters” in the ancient city of Antioch (Acts 11:22–24). Barnabas was famous for his ability to inspire people. Known as a good man, full of faith and the Holy Spirit, he prompted the new believers to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts” (v. 23). I imagine he spent time with those he wanted to help, saying things like: Keep praying. Trust the Lord. Stay close to God when life is hard.
New believers, like children, need loads of encouragement. They’re full of potential. They’re discovering what they’re good at. They may not fully realize what God wants to do in and through them, and often the enemy works overtime to prevent their faith from flourishing.
Those of us who’ve walked with Jesus for a while understand how hard living for Jesus can be. May all of us be able to give and receive encouragement as God’s Spirit guides us and reminds us of spiritual truth. (Quote source here.)
In an article published on August 22, 2019, titled, “Beyond Real and Fake: 10 Main Types of Smiles and What They Mean,” by Rebecca Joy Stanborough, MFA, she writes:
Human beings smile for a number of reasons. You may smile when you spot your long-lost bestie in baggage claim, when you engage your co-workers during a presentation, or when you imagine your ex’s lawyer tripping on the way into the courthouse.
People are fascinated by smiles—all of them. From Mona Lisa to the Grinch, we’re captivated by those both genuine and fake. This enigmatic facial expression has been the subject of hundreds of studies.
Here’s what we know about the 10 different types of smiles, what they look like, and what they mean.
The social functions of smiling
One of the most useful ways to categorize smiles is according to their social function, or the purposes they serve in groups of people.
Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of smiles: smiles of reward, smiles of affiliation, and smiles of dominance.
A smile may be among the most instinctive and simple of expressions—just the hoisting of a couple of facial muscles. But as a form of social interaction and communication, a smile is complex, dynamic, and powerful.
Studies have shown that people are incredibly perceptive when it comes to reading and recognizing these smiles in social situations.
Many people are able to correctly identify which kind of smile they’re witnessing, and seeing certain kinds of smiles can have powerful psychological and physical effects on people.
The 10 types of smiles
Here are the 10 most common types of smiles:
1. Reward smiles
Many smiles arise from a positive feeling — contentment, approval, or even happiness in the midst of sorrow. Researchers describe these as “reward” smiles because we use them to motivate ourselves or other people.
Reward smiles involve a lot of sensory stimuli. Muscles in the mouth and cheeks are both activated, as are muscles in the eye and brow areas. More positive input from the senses increases the good feelings and leads to better reinforcement of the behavior.
For example, when a baby unexpectedly smiles at their mother, it triggers the dopamine reward centers in the mother’s brain. (Dopamine is a feel-good chemical.) The mother is thus rewarded for her baby’s apparent happiness.
2. Affiliative smiles
People also use smiles to reassure others, to be polite, and to communicate trustworthiness, belonging, and good intentions. Smiles like these have been characterized as “affiliation” smiles because they function as social connectors.
A gentle smile is often perceived as a sign of compassion, for example.
These smiles involve the upward pull of the lips, and according to researchers, often trigger dimpling in the cheeks.
According to research, affiliative smiles can also include a lip presser, where the lips remain closed during the smile. Keeping the teeth hidden might be a subtle reversal of the primitive tooth-baring aggression signal.
3. Dominance smiles
People sometimes smile to show their superiority, to communicate contempt or derision, and to make others feel less powerful. You might call it a sneer. The mechanics of a dominance smile are different than reward or affiliative smiles.
A dominance smile is more likely to be asymmetrical: One side of the mouth rises, and the other side remains in place or pulls downward.
In addition to these movements, dominance smiles may also include a lip curl and the raising of an eyebrow to expose more of the white part of the eye, both of which are powerful signals of disgust and anger.
Studies show that the dominance smile works.
Researchers tested the saliva of people on the receiving end of a dominance smile and found higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, for up to 30 minutes after the negative encounter.
The study also found that the sneer raised heart rates among the participants. This kind of smile is a nonverbal threat, and the body responds accordingly.
4. The lying smile
Nevertheless, there have been studies that revealed smile patterns among people who were actively trying to deceive others in high-stakes situations.
A 2012 study conducted a frame-by-frame analysis of people filmed while publicly pleading for the return of a missing family member. Half of those individuals were later convicted of killing the relative.
Among the deceivers, the zygomaticus major muscle—the one that pulls your lips into a smile—repeatedly fired. Not so with those who were genuinely grief-stricken.
5. The wistful smile
Anyone who has seen the 1989 movie classic “Steel Magnolias” will recall the cemetery scene when M’Lynn, played by Sally Fields, finds herself laughing raucously on the day she buries her daughter.
The sheer dexterity of human emotion is astonishing. So, we’re able to smile in the midst of both emotional and physical pain.
Experts at the National Institutes of Health think that the ability to smile and laugh during the grieving process protects you while you recover. Interestingly, scientists think we might smile during physical pain for protective purposes, too.
Researchers monitored the facial expressions of people who were undergoing painful procedures and found that they smiled more when loved ones were present than when they were alone. They concluded that people were using smiles to reassure others.
6. The polite smile
You dispense a polite smile surprisingly often: when you first meet someone, when you’re about to deliver bad news, and when you’re concealing a response you believe someone else won’t like. The list of social situations requiring a pleasant expression is a long one.
Most of the time, a polite smile involves the zygomaticus major muscle, but not the orbicularis oculi muscle. In other words, your mouth smiles, but your eyes don’t.
Polite smiles help us maintain a kind of discreet distance between people. Whereas warm smiles sparked by genuine feeling tend to draw us closer to others, that closeness isn’t always appropriate.
Lots of social situations call for trustworthy friendliness but not emotional intimacy. In those situations, researchers have found the polite smile is as effective as a heartfelt one.
7. The flirtatious smile
Dating, psychology, and even dental websites offer advice on how to use your smile to flirt with someone.
Some tips are subtle: Keep your lips together and lift an eyebrow. Some are coy: Smile while tipping your head down slightly. Some are downright comical: Smile with a little whipped cream or coffee froth on your lips.
While there’s a lot of cultural influence on these tips and comparatively little evidence to back their effectiveness, there’s proof that smiling makes you more attractive.
One study found that attractiveness is heavily influenced by smiling, and that a happy, intense smile can “compensate for relative unattractiveness.”
8. The embarrassed smile
An oft-quoted 1995 study found that a smile provoked by embarrassment is often accompanied by a downward tilt of the head and a shifting of the gaze to the left.
If you’re embarrassed, you’ll probably touch your face more often, too.
A 2009 study on embarrassed smiles did confirm the head movements. However, it didn’t confirm that people who are embarrassed usually smile with their mouths closed. Their smiles tend to not last as long as amused or polite smiles.
9. The Pan Am smile
This smile gets its name from the Pan Am flight attendants who were required to keep smiling, even when customers and circumstances made them want to throw peanut packets across the cabin.
Widely regarded as forced and fake, the Pan Am smile might have appeared extreme.
Studies show that when people are posing, they use extra effort to yank on their zygomaticus major muscle.
As a result, the corners of the mouth are extra high, and more of the teeth are exposed. If a posed smile is asymmetrical, the left side of the mouth will be higher than the right side.
If you’re one of the nearly 2.8 million people employed in the customer service industry, or if your job requires you to interact regularly with the public, you might want to reconsider relentlessly deploying the Pan Am smile, as it could affect your health.
10. The Duchenne smile
This one is the gold standard. The Duchenne smile is also known as the smile of genuine enjoyment. It’s the one that involves the mouth, the cheeks, and the eyes simultaneously. It’s the one where your whole face seems to light up suddenly.
Authentic Duchenne smiles make you seem trustworthy, authentic, and friendly. They’ve been found to generate better customer service experiences and better tips. And they’ve been linked to longer life and healthier relationships.
In a 2009 study, researchers looked at the intensity of smiles in college yearbook photos and found that women who had Duchenne smiles in their photos were more likely to be happily married much later.
In another study published in 2010, researchers examined baseball cards from 1952. They found that players whose photos showed intense, authentic smiles had lived much longer than those whose smiles looked less intense.
Smiles vary. Whether they express genuine bursts of feeling or they’re intentionally created to suit a specific purpose, smiles serve important functions in systems of human interaction.
They may reward behavior, inspire social bonding, or exert dominance and subservience. They can be used to deceive, to flirt, to maintain social norms, to signal embarrassment, to cope with pain, and to express rushes of sentiment.
In all their ambiguity and variety, smiles are one of the most powerful means we have of communicating who we are and what we intend in social contexts. (Quote source here.)
Many see smiling simply as an involuntary response to things that bring you joy or laughter. While this observation is certainly true, what most people overlook is that smiling can be just as much a voluntary response as a conscious and powerful choice.
Countless scientific studies have confirmed that a genuine smile is generally considered attractive to others around us. Other studies have shed light on how the act of smiling can elevate your mood and the mood of those around you.
A strong link has been found between good health, longevity, and smiling. Most importantly, studies have shown that just the act of smiling (making the physical facial shapes and movements), whether the result of real joy or an act, can have both short- and long-term benefits on people’s health and well being.
Still not convinced? Here are the top 10 reasons you should make a conscious effort to smile every day. [Note: the 10 reasons listed below have more detailed information that can be read at this link.]
- Smiling makes us attractive.
- Smiling releases stress.
- Smiling elevates our mood.
- Smiling is contagious.
- Smiling boosts your immune system.
- Smiling lowers your blood pressure.
- Smiling makes us feel good.
- Smiling makes you look younger.
- Smiling makes you seems successful.
- Smiling helps you stay positive.
Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It’s hard, isn’t it?
Even when a smile feels unnatural or forced, it still sends the brain and ultimately the rest of our body the message that “Life is Good!” Stay away from depression, stress, and worry by smiling. (Quote source here.)
Always put a smile on your face because it’s a very powerful weapon. I’m not talking about a cheesy fake one. I’m talking about a genuine smile of happiness. Instead of putting on a frown when in hard times which will only make you feel worse, turn that frown upside down.
I guarantee you if you do this, you will feel so much better. Remember God is always faithful. He will hold you up. Rejoice because all things work together for good. Uplift your life and think about all the great things God has done for you. Here are reasons why you should always be thankful.
Think about things that are honorable. Give God thanks and always smile, which shows strength. Bless someone’s life today by just giving them a smile and that alone can indeed uplift them. [Note: 16 Bible verses are listed in the article and can be read at this link.] (Quote source here.)
I’ll end this post with one of those 16 Bible verses mentioned in the above article: Proverbs 15:30a (NLT)…
A cheerful look . . .
Brings joy . . .
To the heart . . . .
YouTube Video: “I’ll Take You There” (1972) by The Staple Singers:
YouTube Video: “Think” (1980) by Aretha Franklin feat. The Blues Brothers: