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Beyond Smile Dynamics: Mimicry and Beliefs in

Judgments of Smiles

Article in Emotion · February 2011

DOI: 10.1037/a0022596 · Source: PubMed


63 613

4 authors, including:

Eva G Krumhuber Agneta H Fischer

University College London University of Amsterdam


Paula M Niedenthal
University of Wisconsin–Madison


Some of the authors of this publication are also working on these related projects:

Training Emotion Recognition through an app View project

Facial mimicry View project

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Emotion © 2011 American Psychological Association
2011, Vol. 11, No. 1, 181–187 1528-3542/11/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0022596


Beyond Smile Dynamics: Mimicry and Beliefs in Judgments of Smiles

Marcus Maringer Eva G. Krumhuber
University of Amsterdam University of Geneva

Agneta H. Fischer Paula M. Niedenthal

University of Amsterdam CNRS and the University of Clermont-Ferrand, France

The judgment that a smile is based on “true,” usually positive, feelings affects social interaction. However, the
processes underlying the interpretation of a smile as being more or less genuine are not well understood. The
aim of the present research was to test predictions of the Simulation of Smiles Model (SIMS) proposed by
Niedenthal, Mermillod, Maringer, and Hess (2010). In addition to the perceptual features that can guide the
judgment of a smile as genuine, the model identifies the conditions that the judgments rely on: (a) the
embodiment of the facial expression and its corresponding state, and (b) beliefs about the situations in which
genuine smiles are most often expressed. Results of two studies are consistent with the model in that they
confirm the hypotheses that facial mimicry provides feedback that is used to judge the meaning of a smile, and
that beliefs about the situations in which a smile occurs guides such judgments when mimicry is inhibited.

Keywords: mimicry, emotion embodiment, social judgement, smile genuineness

The smile is one of the most important signals in human inter- those whose smile is judged to be genuine (Frank, Ekman, &
action. People smile frequently, and smiles are expressed in a wide Friesen, 1993; Harker & Keltner, 2001; Johnston, Miles, & Mc-
range of social contexts. People smile at others while waiting for Crae, 2010; Krumhuber et al., 2007; Krumhuber, Manstead, &
an elevator, when showing their ticket to a bus driver, or when they Kappas, 2007). Hence, the processes that underlie the judgment
run into a familiar person at a shopping mall. Smiles often signal that a smile is genuine versus not genuine are important.
that individuals are happy or that they like the specific individual To date, research on smiles has almost exclusively emphasized
to whom they address the smile (Ekman, 1992, 1994). Conse- the perceptual-descriptive differences between different types of
quently, smiling individuals are perceived as being happier (Otta, smile (Ekman & Friesen, 1982; Frank & Ekman, 1993). In this
Abrosio, & Hoshino, 1996; Otta, Lira, Delevati, Cesar, & Pires, research, it has been shown that smiles judged as genuine involve
1994), receive higher ratings of attractiveness, kindness, honesty, the activation of certain muscle regions (Frank, Ekman, & Friesen,
and competence (Hess, Beaupré, & Cheung, 2002; Reis et al., 1993; Miles & Johnston, 2007), have smooth and more regular
1990), are liked more (Young & Beier, 1977; Palmer & Simmons, facial movements (Hess & Kleck, 1994), and are longer in onset,
1995), and are responded to with more cooperative behaviors, apex, and offset durations (Krumhuber & Kappas, 2005; Krumhu-
increased responsiveness, and affiliative signals (Gonzaga, Kelt- ber, Manstead, Cosker, Marshall, & Rosin, 2009) than smiles that
ner, Londahl, & Smith, 2001; Patterson & Tubbs, 2005; Scharle- are judged as less genuine.
mann, Eckel, Kacelnik, & Wilson, 2001) than people who do not However, differences in the morphology cannot account for the
smile. fact that the judgment of a smile as genuine is highly variable
However, in some Western cultures, the interpersonal benefits across individuals and cultures (Thibault, Leveque, Gosselin, &
for smiling are even greater when the smile is considered to be Hess, 2009). In our view, the emphasis on facial musculature has
indicative of positive feelings. People who display smiles that are resulted in a relative neglect of other processes that might be
judged to be false receive less favorable personality ratings and involved in judgments of smile meaning (e.g., as genuine or not
are responded to with fewer cooperative behaviors compared to genuine). In the present research we focus on two such processes,
following the Simulation of Smiles Model (SIMS) model of Nie-
denthal, Mermillod, Maringer, and Hess (2010): the simulation of
Marcus Maringer and Agneta H. Fischer, Department of Psychology, the facial expression and the corresponding internal state in the
University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Eva G. Krumhu- self, and the application of beliefs about the likelihood of a
ber, Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences, University of Geneva, Geneva
particular type of smile appearing in a particular social context.
Switzerland; Paula M. Niedenthal, CNRS and Department of Psychology,
Thus, the aim of the present research is to demonstrate that crucial
University of Clermont-Ferrand, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Marcus processes underlying judgments of smile genuineness go beyond
Maringer, Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, the face of the sender (i.e., the description of empirically based
Roetersstraat 15, 1018 WB Amsterdam, the Netherlands. E-mail: “genuine” and “not genuine” smiles), and are also found in the mind of the perceiver.


Simulation of the Smile Expression tions of the SIMS model is that when mimicry is inhibited, the
affective input from the somatosensory experience is absent, ren-
One way that a facial expression could be interpreted is by dering people less able to determine whether a smile is genuine or
reference to an embodied simulation of the expression and its false. If input from mimicry is inhibited, however, other informa-
corresponding internal state. Niedenthal and colleagues (2010) tion, such as beliefs might serve as alternative input to ground
specifically define this as occurring when a “facial expression has one’s judgment.
triggered a simulation of a state in the motor, somatosensory,
affective and reward systems that represents the meaning of the
expression to the perceiver.” Hence, from the perspective of the Beliefs About Smile-Genuineness
SIMS (Niedenthal et al., 2010), mimicry plays a fundamental role
in the representation of how a smile feels (Atkinson & Adolphs, Belief-driven approaches to emotion recognition hold that con-
2005; Niedenthal, Brauer, Halberstadt, & Innes-Ker, 2001; Ober- ceptual processes play an important role in how facial expressions
man, Winkielman, & Ramachandran, 2007). Facial mimicry can are interpreted. In this view, when individuals see an emotional
be understood as an internal simulation of the perceived facial expression, they may interpret its meaning in terms of the specific
expression, which supports understanding of other people’s emo- situations, events and behaviors that they know to be associated
tions (Atkinson & Adolphs, 2005; Niedenthal, Brauer, Halberstadt, with the expression. In other words, people’s beliefs reflect their
& Innes-Ker, 2001; Oberman, Winkielman, & Ramachandran, theories about the causal relationships between different types of
2007). It is the input from specific regions associated with the social situations, social motives, and resulting emotions and emo-
production of the emotional expressions and the emotional re- tional expression (Adolphs, 2002; Fischer & Manstead, 2008;
sponse to it that support the recognition of different types of Jakobs, Manstead, & Fischer, 1999; Robinson & Clore, 2002;
emotional expressions. Hence, individuals are able to distinguish Saxe, 2005). For example, an individual may hold the belief that
happy expressions from angry expressions because those expres- when expressed during a sales interaction a smile is probably false
sions feel different in terms of the somatosensory and affective in nature, whereas a smile that occurs as a result of a successful
experiences they produce (Niedenthal et al., 2009). sale is probably genuine. This belief is based on the assumption
This assumption finds some support in a number of publications. that the act of selling involves the intent to manipulate whereas the
For instance, in a recent neuroimaging study, Botulinum Toxin completion of a sale involves the experience of satisfied pleasure.
(BOTOX) was injected into the brow area of half of the partici- Indeed, since individuals expect certain events to usually cause
pants (Hennenlotter et al., 2009). These participants, as well as people to display genuine versus false smiles, such knowledge
control participants who had not received BOTOX injections, were might influence the perception of smile genuineness.
then instructed to mimic angry and sad facial expressions pre- But when are people likely to use such beliefs to infer whether
sented in photographs. During the anger (but not sadness) mimicry a smile they see is based on true feelings? An interesting prediction
task, BOTOX participants showed significantly less limbic system has been made in the Accessibility Model of Emotion Self-reports
activation compared to the control. This result causally links facial (Robinson & Clore, 2002). This model assumes that people use
mimicry to emotional state, in that disabling the facial musculature two different sources of information for their judgments about
decreased activation of regions of the brain associated with emo-
their own emotions in a given situation. One source of information
tion processing. In a related study by Lee and colleagues (2006),
is experiential knowledge, which is the direct experience of the
participants mimicked faces expressing smiles, as well as other
event and the resulting emotions of that event. The other source of
expressions. The more participants mimicked the smiles, the
information is people’s conceptual knowledge about the emotions
greater the activations in their striatum and amygdala, suggesting
they expect to occur as a result of a specific event. The model
that mimicry was related to the production of a corresponding
predicts that if the direct experience of the emotion is absent, and
emotional state.
hence not accessible (e.g., in future events), people are more likely
In behavioral studies, Stel and Knippenberg (2008) demon-
to use conceptual knowledge about how they expect them to
strated that participants recognized facial expressions of emotions
more slowly when they were unable to mimic facial expressions emotionally react in a given situation.
than when they were free to mimic the expression. Others have The SIMS model makes similar predictions for judgments re-
demonstrated that when mimicry is blocked, individuals are less garding the emotions of others. In this case the emotional experi-
able to recognize happy and disgust expressions (Oberman et al., ence of an event is the observers’ reenacted affective state of the
2007), and slower to detect changes in sad and happy facial other person (Atkinson & Adolphs, 2005; Niedenthal et al., 2001;
expressions (Niedenthal et al., 2001). Oberman et al., 2007). However, when the affective state of the
According to the SIMS model, however, it is likely that somato- sender cannot be simulated for some reason, people will use other
sensory simulations not only facilitate emotion recognition, they sources of information to determine the emotion’s genuineness.
probably also contribute to how perceivers experience the meaning Specifically, when individuals’ mimicry is experimentally inhib-
of these facial expressions, specifically, as a genuine or a false ited and the possibility of relying on the simulated feeling of the
emotion. A “true” smile will thus be judged as genuine on the basis facial expression in judgments is reduced, then individuals will
of input from the positive feelings that such a smile produces. For rely on stereotypes or beliefs about the smile meaning (Niedenthal
a “false” smile the process is similar, but the mimicry may be et al., 2010). Put differently, when mimicry of a smile is inhibited,
attenuated to a certain degree (Surakka & Hietanen, 1998) and the the judgment of whether the smile is based on true feelings will be
smile is therefore felt as less positive by the perceiver, grounding more likely to be grounded in people’s beliefs about the causal
the judgment of a smile as rather false. Hence one of the predic- relationship between specific events and the likelihood of smiles.

Overview and Hypotheses (AU) 6 (Cheek Raiser), AU 12 (Lip Corner Puller), and AU 25
(Lips Part). For each character, a smile that possessed the dynam-
Although there is some evidence that inhibiting facial mimicry ics of a true smile (with 16 frames or 533 ms onset) and dynamics
per se can influence people’s efficiency in recognizing facial of a false smile (with 4 frames or 133 ms onset) were constructed.
expressions (Niedenthal, Brauer, Halberstadt, & Innes-Ker, 2001; All stimuli started at a neutral position for 10 frames and then
Stel & Van Knippenberg, 2008), there is no research to date changed in one of the two onset durations, to a smiling face at a
demonstrating that blocking facial mimicry affects people’s judg- target intensity of 0.8 (see Krumhuber et al., 2007, for details).
ments about the genuineness of an expression. Furthermore, it is
still unclear how embodied processes might interact with other
impression formation processes, such as the integration of people’s Procedure
beliefs into their judgments (Goldman & Sripada, 2005; Nie- The pretext for the research was the development of a virtual
denthal et al., 2010; Saxe, 2005). environment in which people could attend meetings and confer-
We report two studies that address these issues. In Study 1 we ences online without the need for additional web-cameras. Partic-
test the hypothesis that facial mimicry influences the judgment of ipants were told that in the current phase we were asking individ-
the genuineness of smiles. We presented participants with video uals to evaluate features of some of the “test-avatars.” The
clips of dynamic smiles with different structural qualities that had experimenter further explained that in order to prevent that a
previously been rated as “true” or “false.” The participant’s ability judgment of one feature influenced judgments of other features, we
to mimic the smiles was manipulated, and the judgment of the were asking participants in different conditions to evaluate the
genuineness of each smile was assessed. Our prediction was that avatars on a single characteristic. In the present study participants
true smiles would be rated as more genuine than false smiles, but were asked to evaluate the genuineness of the smile of several
only when individuals could freely mimic the smiles. We expected avatars.
that participants who could not mimic the smiles would rate both The experiment was presented on computers with Macromedia
true and false smiles as equally genuine. Authorware 7 using a 1024 ⫻ 768 screen resolution on 17⬙
In Study 2 we tested the hypothesis that when mimicry is monitors. Participants were seated in individual cubicles.
inhibited, beliefs about smiles in specific situations will influence Half of the participants learned that previous research had
judgments of genuineness. For this purpose the smiles were pre- indicated that individuals form more objective judgments of the
sented either in a positive context in which true smiles would be features of faces if their own facial movement is kept to a mini-
expected or in a context that was ambiguous with respect to the mum. The experimenter explained that, to this end, they would
likelihood of a true smile. We again manipulated the possibility to hold a pen sideways between their lips and teeth while they
mimic the smiles, and assessed the participant’s judgment of the performed the rating task. In fact, this technique has proven to
smile’s genuineness. We predicted that judgments of participants reliably inhibit facial muscles used in smiling without inducing an
who could not mimic the smiles would be strongly influenced by emotional state in itself (Niedenthal et al., 2001; Oberman et al.,
the context, but not those of participants who could mimic the 2007). The experimenter demonstrated the correct way to hold the
smile. pen by touching the pen with the teeth and lips only very gently
and by making sure that the upper and lower lips touches each
Study 1 other softly in front of the pen. It was emphasized that participants
should make sure that neither their lips nor their teeth exert any
Participants and Design active pressure on the pen. The experimenter also demonstrated the
incorrect way to hold the pen, by compacting the lips and teeth
Undergraduate students (n ⫽ 64) at the University of Amster- tightly against the pen.
dam served as participants in exchange for course credit, or 3.50 It should be noted that this blocking procedure differs from the
Euros. Participants were randomly assigned to the conditions of a procedure employed by Oberman et al. (2007), in which partici-
2 (Smile Type: true, false) by 2 (Mimicry: free, inhibited) pants were required to exert a constant active pressure (“bite”) on
between-subjects factorial design. the pen. Whereas the aim of the procedure used by Oberman et al.
(2007) was to create a constant muscular “noise” that interferes
Smile Stimuli with the recognition of certain facial expressions, the procedure
used in the present study aimed to prevent the occurrence of a
All target expressions used for the present purpose were dy- facial signal (see Niedenthal et al., 2001), which should interfere
namic in nature. The stimulus material consisted of 10 male and 10 with the interpretation of whether a smile is based on true feelings
female characters generated using the Poser 4 (Curious Labs, Santa or not. This mimicry blocking procedure with low facial muscle
Cruz, CA, U.S.A.) character animation software. From this set, 6 tension also makes it less likely that any changes in perceptual
male and 6 female Poser figures had already been used in a outcomes due to blocking facial mimicry can be explained in terms
previous study (Krumhuber, Manstead, & Kappas, 2007). We of other factors such as distraction due to higher levels of arousal
created 4 additional male and 4 additional female characters by or effort (see Oberman et al., 2007).
altering the facial structure and type of hair of Poser figures. All The other half of the participants did not receive such instruc-
characters expressed a smile over 40 frames at a frame rate of 30 tions and were able to freely mimic the facial expression of the
images per section. The smile expression was operationally de- target.
fined as an open mouth smile and had been previously classified Furthermore, one half of the participants saw a set of “genuine”
by two FACS certified coders as a combination of Action Unit smiles and the other half saw a set of “false” smiles. It should be

noted that this procedure was different from Krumhuber et al. ness confirmed the validity of the stimulus development such that
(2007), as these authors presented each participant with genuine as the empirically derived true smiles were perceived as more genu-
well as false smiles. This procedure, however, enabled participants ine than the empirically derived false smiles. However, consistent
to directly compare the facial movements of true smiles with the with predictions made by Niedenthal et al. (2009) when the par-
facial movements of false smiles. As a consequence of this com- ticipant’s facial mimicry was blocked, this difference disappeared.
parison process, people might be more likely to base their judg- That is, the participants who could not mimic rated the two types
ments directly on the expressive features of the smiles and less on of smiles as equally genuine.
the simulated affective state of the sender (see Niedenthal et al.,
2010). Each smile appeared on the screen with a start button Study 2
underneath and participants were free to start the animation at their
own will, but not to stop it once it had been started. In addition to simulation, we argued that people’s beliefs about
the causal relationships between different types of social events
Judgments of Genuineness and accompanying facial expressions may be used to judge other
people’s emotions (e.g., Gopnik, & Wellman, 1992; Leslie, 1994;
Each smile disappeared from the computer screen after it Niedenthal et al., 2009). In Study 2 we tested the hypothesis of the
reached its end and it was replaced by the request for a judgment. SIMS Model (Niedenthal et al., 2010) that when mimicry is
Judgments of genuineness were made on 5-point scales running inhibited, and along with it the simulated or reenacted affective
from 1 (not at all genuine) to 5 (very genuine). state of the sender, the individual’s judgment about smile genu-
ineness should reflect beliefs about a given event and how likely
Results such an event causes a genuine smile.
Effects of mimicry and smile type on genuineness judg-
ments. We first computed overall genuineness scores by aver- Method
aging participant ratings of the 20 smiles. Effects of the indepen-
Participants and design. Undergraduate students (n ⫽ 48) at
dent variables on these scores were computed by performing a 2
the University of Amsterdam served as participants in exchange
(Smile Type: true, false) by 2 (Mimicry: free, inhibited) Analysis
for course credit or 3.50 Euros. Participants were randomly as-
of Variance (ANOVA). The analysis revealed a marginally signif-
signed to the conditions of a 2 (Mimicry: free, inhibited) by 2
icant main effect of Smile Type F(1, 60) ⫽ 3.40, p ⫽ .07, ␩2 ⫽
(Context: positive, ambiguous) between-subjects factorial design.
.05, indicating that true smiles were perceived as marginally more
Procedure and dependent measures. The pretext for the
genuine (M ⫽ 3.00, SD ⫽ 0.57) than false smiles (M ⫽ 2.77, SD ⫽
research was the development of training modules that integrate
0.46). This main effect was qualified by a Smile Type x Mimicry
avatars in virtual environments with more traditional tutoring
two-way interaction, F(1, 60) ⫽ 6.74, p ⬍ .01, ␩2 ⫽ .10 (all means
techniques. We told the participants that salesclerks increasingly
and standard deviations are presented in Table 1).
have problems with customers in sales interactions. The purpose of
In order to investigate the interaction, we conducted a test of the
the training modules was to improve the interaction between
simple main effects. The analysis revealed that among the partic-
salesclerks and customers. As in Study 1, participants were further
ipants who could mimic the smiles, those who saw true smiles
informed that in the current phase of the project, it was crucial to
perceived the expressions as more genuine (M ⫽ 3.12, SD ⫽ 0.57)
collect evaluations of certain expressive features of the avatars,
than those who saw the false smiles (M ⫽ 2.57, SD ⫽ 0.34), F(1,
and that in the present study they would evaluate the genuineness
60) ⫽ 9.76, p ⬍ .01, ␩2 ⫽ .14. This finding confirms the validity
of the smile of several avatars. The true smiles used in Study 1
of the empirically derived smile stimuli. However, as predicted,
served as the target stimuli in all conditions.
when the participant’s mimicry was inhibited, no difference in
Smile context was manipulated by instructing half of the par-
judgment of smile genuineness as a function of smile type was
ticipants to imagine that the avatar was a salesclerk who had just
observed (F ⬍ 1).
sold them a pair of shoes ( positive smile context). The other half
In summary, Krumhuber, Manstead, and Kappas (2007) devel-
of the participants was instructed to imagine that the avatar was a
oped dynamic smile stimuli that were consensually interpreted as
salesclerk who was trying to sell them a pair of shoes (ambiguous
relatively “true” versus “false” smiles. In the present experiment in
smile context). At the beginning of the experiment, in order to
which participants could mimic the smiles, judgment of genuine-
measure participants’ beliefs about the meaning of a smile, par-
ticipants answered questions about the likelihood of a genuine
smile being shown in a specific context. In order to avoid the
Table 1
participant’s elaboration on the possibility of other conditions,
Mean (SD) Judgments of Smile Genuineness as a Function of
participants in the positive context condition were asked to rate
Smile Type and Mimicry
only the likelihood of a genuine smile being shown by a salesclerk
Smile type True False who just sold a pair of shoes, and participants in the ambiguous
context condition were asked to only rate the likelihood of a
Mimicry genuine smile being shown by a salesclerk who was trying to sell
Free 3.12 (0.57) 2.57 (0.34) a pair of shoes. Judgments were made on a 5-point scale ranging
Blocked 2.88 (0.56) 2.98 (0.47)
from 1 (0% likely) to 5 (100% likely).
Note. Judgments were made on a scale from 1 to 5, with higher scores This measurement of participants’ beliefs about a smile in a
indicating more positive judgments. specific context was not only used for testing their own adherence

to the belief that a salesclerk would express a smile that was context in order to judge the genuineness of a smile. Because
genuine in the given situation, but also for the purpose of making people believed that the context of having sold a pair of shoes is
participants’ beliefs more accessible prior to the impression for- associated with the expression of a true smile, they believed that
mation task. In order to make sure that their beliefs about the smile the smiles were indeed rather genuine. On the other hand, because
context remained accessible throughout the experimental session, people believed that trying to sell a pair of shoes is associated with
a short sentence reminding them about this context was displayed the expression of a false smile, they judged the smile as rather
underneath each video clip. false. However, as predicted, this impact of beliefs was limited
As in Study 1, in order to block mimicry, we again instructed only to conditions in which mimicry was not possible. If respon-
half of the participants to hold a pen sideways between their teeth dents could mimic the smile, there was no effect of the context in
and lips while they observed the facial expression of the target. which the smile occurred.
The other half of the participants was again free to mimic the facial
expression of the target. After the presentation of each smile, Discussion
participants rated how genuine the smile seemed to be on a 5-point
scale ranging from ⫺2 (not at all genuine) to ⫹ 2 (very genuine). How do people interpret a smile as being genuine, or “true,” in
the sense that it is expressive of positive feelings? Whereas pre-
Results vious research has focused entirely on the description of the
objective features of various smiles that give rise to different
Manipulation check. First we investigated the a priori beliefs interpretations (Frank, Ekman, & Friesen, 1993; Hess & Kleck,
of the participants regarding the likely occurrence of true smiles in 1990; Krumhuber & Kappas, 2005), the present research demon-
a specific context. We conducted a 2 (Smile Mimicry: free, strated that judging a smile as a genuine expression of positive
blocked) by 2 (Smile Context: positive, ambiguous) ANOVA on feelings is determined by more than just the objective features of
the likelihood of the occurrence of a true smile. This analysis the smile. Consistent with the SIMS model, we showed that
revealed a significant main effect of Smile Context F(1, 44) ⫽ empirically derived “true” smiles were judged to be more genuine
12.41, p ⬍ .01, ␩2 ⫽ .25, indicating that participants in the positive than empirically derived “false” smiles, but only when mimicry of
smile context expected the occurrence of a genuine smile to be the smiles was possible. These findings confirm that mimicry of a
more likely (M ⫽ 3.37, SD ⫽ 0.58) compared to participants in the smile plays an important role in the interpretation of its meaning.
ambiguous smile context (M ⫽ 2.72, SD ⫽ 0.67; all other Fs ⬍ 1). Since previous research has been limited to the effects of struc-
No main effect or interaction with Smile Mimicry was found tural features of facial displays, the processes that underlie judg-
(Fs ⬍ 1). ments of genuineness have remained relatively unclear. We be-
Effects of mimicry and context on genuineness judgments. lieve our findings are novel, because they show that although
Next we averaged the participants’ genuineness ratings across the objective criteria can be used for judging smile genuineness, these
20 smiles and submitted these to a 2 (Smile Mimicry: free, criteria are not the only sources of information when judging a
blocked) by 2 (Smile Context: positive, ambiguous) ANOVA. The smile (see also Niedenthal et al., 2010).
analysis revealed no main effects, but the predicted two-way We believe the present study also contributes to the question of
interaction between Mimicry and Context, F(1, 44) ⫽ 4.05, p ⬍ whether a simulation-based or a theory-based explanation alone
.05, ␩2 ⫽ .08 (all means and standard deviations are presented in can account for the variability of outcomes of interpretations of
Table 2). Analyses of simple main effects further revealed that in facial expressions (see Goldman & Sripada, 2005; Niedenthal et
conditions in which the participant’s facial mimicry was blocked, al., 2009; Saxe, 2005). We clearly demonstrated that both pro-
smiles were judged to be more genuine in the positive context cesses play an important part in the interpretation of facial expres-
(M ⫽ 3.43, SD ⫽ 0.35), than in the ambiguous context (M ⫽ 3.10, sions. People judge a smile as less genuine when they expect it to
SD ⫽ 0.30), F(1, 44) ⫽ 3.33, p ⬍ .05, ␩2 ⫽ .07. As expected, in be so in a given situation. However, this effect of people’s beliefs
conditions in which participants were free to mimic the smile, no was only found if people were unable to actively simulate the
difference was found in judgments of smile genuineness as a affective state of the smiling person. This suggests that the reen-
function of the context in which it was seen (F ⬍ 1). actment of the emotional expression of others provides a strong
In summary, the results of the second experiment demonstrated basis for people’s interpretations of smiles that can override beliefs
that individuals who could not mimic a smile tended to use their based on conceptual knowledge. If the input from simulation is
personal beliefs about the relation between smiling and the sales absent, however, people’s beliefs are more likely to inform their
judgments. Hence, we believe our research clearly points to the
fact that neither a simulation-based nor a theory-based explanation
Table 2
alone is sufficient in explaining “when” and “why” people judge
Mean (SD) Judgments of Smile Genuineness as a Function of
smiles differently. In order to increase our understanding of peo-
Social Context and Mimicry
ple’s interpretations of emotional expressions, the challenge for
Social context Positive Ambiguous future research is to provide answers to the question as to how
simulation based judgment processes are integrated into basic
Mimicry cognitive judgment processes.
Free 3.06 (0.42) 3.25 (0.65) Another critical challenge for future research will be to deter-
Blocked 3.43 (0.35) 3.10 (0.30)
mine what precisely triggers simulation processes. Previous re-
Note. Judgments were made on a scale from 1 to 5, with higher scores search, for instance, has demonstrated that eye-contact is an im-
indicating more positive judgments. portant determinant of simulation processes (Schrammel et al.,

2009), such that simulation processes are most likely if eye-contact differences between enjoyment and nonenjoyment smiles. Humor, 6,
with the other person has been established. Interestingly, when 9 –26.
people are asked how truthful messages might be distinguished Frank, M. G., Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1993). Behavioral markers and
from lies, the most common answer is that liars avoid eye contact. recognizability of the smile of enjoyment. Journal of Personality and
In fact people worldwide believe that averted eye gaze signals Social Psychology, 64, 83–93.
deceit (Bond & The Global Deception Research Team, 2006). Fridlund, A. (1994). Human facial expression: An evolutionary view. San
Diego, CA US: Academic Press.
Hence, one interesting candidate for future research on the inter-
Goldman, A., & Sripada, C. (2005). Simulationist models of face-based
play between more simulation based and more belief-based infer-
emotion recognition. Cognition, 94, 193–213.
ences of smile genuineness would be to examine the role of Gonzaga, G. C., Keltner, D., Londahl, E. A., & Smith, M. D. (2001). Love
eye-contact in judgments of smile genuineness (see also Nie- and the commitment problem in romantic relations and friendship.
denthal et al., 2010). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 247–262.
There is also evidence suggesting that the simulation of other Gopnik, A., & Wellman, H. (1992). Why the child’s theory of mind really
people’s emotional states varies as a function of group member- is a theory. Mind & Language, 7(1–2), 145–171.
ship (Bourgeois & Hess, 2008). Interestingly, research by Hess and Harker, L. A., & Keltner, D. (2001). Expressions of positive emotion in
Kirouac (2000) implies that if people interpret facial expressions women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality
of out-group members, they tend to resort to stereotypic beliefs and life outcomes across adulthood. Journal of Personality and Social
about the group. The present research suggests that understanding Psychology, 80, 112–124.
the mechanisms that initiate or block facial mimicry will not only Hennenlotter, A., Dresel, C., Castrop, F., Ceballos-Baumann, A. O.,
help to explain “when” and “why” people simulate other people’s Wohlschläger, A. M., & Haslinger, B. (2009). The link between facial
facial expressions, but in addition “when” and “why” people’s feedback and neural activity within central circuitries of emotion—New
insights from Botulinum Toxin–induced denervation of frown muscles.
beliefs about facial expressions are more or less likely to be
Cerebral Cortex, 19, 537–542.
pronounced in their interpretations of facial expressions. In par-
Hess, U., Beaupré, M. G., & Cheung, N. (2002). To whom and why –
ticular in the field of intergroup interaction where people often
cultural differences and similarities in the function of smiles. In Milli-
hold strong and stereotypic beliefs about members of other groups, cent Abel (Ed.), The smile: Forms, functions, and consequences (pp.
it is vital to understand the processes that alter the influence of 187–216). New York: The Edwin Mellen Press.
such beliefs on people’s judgments. Hess, U., & Kirouac, G. (2000). Emotion expression in groups. In M.
Behavioral ecologists have argued that smiles are not expressive Lewis & J. Haviland-Jones (Eds.), Handbook of emotion, 2nd edition
of subjective feelings but rather reflect social motives (Fridlund, (pp. 368 –381). New York: Guilford Press.
1994). This view has encouraged the consideration of the social Hess, U., & Kleck, R. (1994). The cues decoders use in attempting to
situation in theorizing about the emergence of smiles (Fischer & differentiate emotion-elicited and posed facial expressions. European
Manstead, 2008; Jakobs, Fischer, & Manstead, 1999), but has not Journal of Social Psychology, 24(3), 367–381.
solved the problem of how or why individuals interpret smiles Jakobs, E., Manstead, A. S. R., & Fischer, A. H. (1999). Social motives and
differently. By identifying the different processes involved in the subjective determinants of facial displays: The case of smiling. Person-
perception of the smile, the present research has contributed to a ality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 424 – 436.
clearer picture of the circumstances under which smiles are dif- Johnston, L., Miles, L., & Macrae, C. N. (2010). Why are you smiling at
me? Social functions of enjoyment and non-enjoyment smiles. British
ferentially processed and judged. Such a perspective may lead to a
Journal of Social Psychology, 49, 107–127.
better understanding of why and how evaluation processes differ
Krumhuber, E., & Kappas, A. (2005). Moving smiles: the role of dynamic
across individuals and cultures.
components for the perception of the genuineness of smiles. Journal of
Nonverbal Behavior, 29(1), 3–24.
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Robinson, M., & Clore, G. (2002). Belief and feeling: Evidence for an Received August 27, 2009
accessibility model of emotional self-report. Psychological Bulletin, Revision received July 13, 2010
128, 934 –960. Accepted August 11, 2010 䡲

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