Don’t smile too much

Here are two excerpted quotations, cited by John Tierney in his sadly gated blog:

“While we typically think of a smile as displaying our emotional state (happiness), it also appears that smiles convey information about the signaler’s status.  Specifically, lower status individuals appear to smile more than higher status individuals.  I suspect that this is due, in part, to the fact that there are several different types of smiles, including a true happiness smile and a true embarrassment smile.  The latter smile, the embarrassment display, is often seen as an appeasement display in primates.  Jimmy Carter smiled a lot, George Bush smiles much less.  Jimmy Carter is generally perceived to be warm and friendly, but not very dominant and strong.  George Bush is perceived be be somewhat less warm and friendly, but is seen as quite dominant and strong.”


“I believe that the smiling faces of the models for the lower priced brands are simply conveying information regarding the social status of the brand image, rather than attempting to make customers feel better.  Sometimes the advertiser must make a trade-off between advertising high status and presenting an emotionally positive image.  Thus, the non-smiling faces of the higher status brands are not trying to make the consumer feel bad; they are simply attempting to display the signals that are associated with higher status.  We liked Elvis even when he sneered at us from the stage because the contemptuous sneer is typically produced by individuals with higher status.  Although we don’t generally like contemptuous individuals, most folks admire higher status individuals and want to be around them.  Thus, the irony is that higher status brands are creating a positive image -– high status–by using a negative signal (lack of a smile).”


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