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Forced smiles prove insincere, unhealthy

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 14:11

Smiles can mean a variety of different things, but fake and forced smiles are the worst.

Often, my mom and aunt would tell me we need to retake a photo at a family function because my eyes were much too squinty in the original shot.

“You look like you have no eyes. Stop smiling so hard. You look ugly and Chinese,” they would tell me, which was their attempt at insulting me because I am Filipino and a quarter Caucasian.

So I removed my genuine smile and replaced it with a softer, frustrated grin while I briefly thought about how artificial my family was being.

A genuine or “Duchenne” smile was named after French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, who studied facial expressions during the 19th century.

According to an article titled “What Science Has to Say about Genuine vs. Fake Smiles,” found on, the Duchenne smile uses both voluntary and involuntary movements which require the use of contracted muscles.  
The first muscle is the zygomatric major, which raises the corner of the mouth. The second muscle is the orbicularis oculi which is responsible for lifting the cheeks and producing crow’s feet around the eyes.

 Scientists have discovered that these two types of smiles are controlled by different parts of the brain.

Fake smiles involve only the contraction of the zygomatric major since people cannot voluntarily contract the orbicularis oculi muscle.

Artificial grins are controlled by the motor cortex, compared to emotion-related movements like genuine smiles which are ordered by the limbic system, the emotional hub inside of the brain.

The next time you look at someone’s face, try to determine if he or she is showing a true, happy smile or not. As the saying goes, “It’s all in the eyes.”

Fake smiles can make people feel more miserable by feigning happiness and can lead to people feeling gloomy.

Employers often tell their workers to smile when a patron walks into the store. However, this could be counterproductive to the business.

A study conducted by Dr. Brent Scott, professor of management at Michigan State University, found the effects of surface acting, also known as fake smiling, can lead to emotional exhaustion and withdrawal, which in turn is bad for the organization.

The research showed that customer-service workers who had to fake their smiles throughout an entire workday had their moods worsen as a result, making the productivity of their work drop.

I have experienced this first hand numerous times. When working on days where I felt my worst, I had to stretch an insincere smile across my face while talking to customers because that is part of the job.

Consequently, faking smiles when feeling down, which is likely to go against one’s normal behavior, will more than likely cause harmful feelings.

By cultivating a face that is not genuine, it does not show who someone really is. It is a façade to send to the masses, either to temporarily appease another person or to make oneself more attractive.

Be wary though. By producing too many fake smiles a person might not like what his or her real smile will end up looking like.


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