Can You Spot a Fake Smile? This Video Can Teach You How to Do It in Under a Minute
The ability to read people’s expressions is one of the most useful skills anyone can develop — so if you’ve been meaning to work on it, here’s a good place to start. Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire can teach you how to spot a fake smile as opposed to a real one in under a minute, thanks to this handy-dandy little video.
You might recognize Professor Wiseman’s name; he’s the same guy who brought us that sleep deprivation test we looked at back in April. The newest entry of his “59 Seconds” series takes on the task of teaching us how to separate fake smiles from genuine ones, and—as promised — it accomplishes its goal in under a minute.
The video begins by showing you three pairs of images. Each pair features two smiling photographs of the same person, with one subtle difference: In one of them, the person is smiling for real; in the other, he or she is putting on a fake smile. The video then challenges you to see if you can tell the real smile from the false one. Care to give it a shot? Here, have a go and see how you do:
I actually surprised myself by getting three out of three correct. But no worries if you had a tougher time; expressions of true happiness are difficult to spot. A study conducted at the University of La Laguna in 2013 found that it’s easy to figure out whether someone is angry, sad or scared — but quite complicated to determine how genuine a seemingly happy face is. They key, as Professor Wiseman pointed out in his video, is in the eyes. According to Leo Widrich writing for Buffer, two muscles can potentially activate when we smile: One of them, the zygomaticus major, controls the corners of your mouth, while the other, the orbicularis occuli, encircles your eye socket. When only the mouth muscle is activated, the smile isn’t genuine — scientists called it a “social” smile, and we employ it so often that it has a tendency to trip us up when we see it. A true smile, on the other hand, activates both the mouth and the eye muscles, showing true happiness.
When it comes to putting on fake smiles yourself, though, the old saying of “grin and bear it” may not be the best way to go. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in July of 2014 found that putting on a fake smile when you’re upset doesn’t help turn your mood around; indeed, over time, it actually causes people to associate smiling with unhappy feelings. So on days when you don’t feel so great? Allow yourself to feel it. You’ll smile when it’s resolved and you’re actually feeling happy again.