A convincing smile is difficult to fake

Here is a new paper by a few authors, including Paul Seabright:

We test the hypothesis that “genuine” or “convincing” smiling is a costly signal that has evolved to induce cooperation in situations requiring mutual trust. Potential trustees in a trust game made video clips for viewing by potential trusters before the latter decided whether to send them money. Ratings of the genuineness of smiles vary across clips; it is difficult to make convincing smiles to order. We argue that smiling convincingly is costly, because smiles from trustees playing for higher stakes are rated as significantly more convincing, so that rewards appear to induce effort. We show that it induces cooperation: smiles rated as more convincing strongly predict judgments about the trustworthiness of trustees, and willingness to send them money. Finally, we show that it is a honest signal: those smiling convincingly return more money on average to senders. Convincing smiles are to some extent a signal of the intrinsic character of trustees: less honest individuals find smiling convincingly more difficult. They are also informative about the greater amounts that trustees playing for higher stakes have available to share: it is harder to smile convincingly if you have less to offer.

Here is another paper by Paul and co-authors, about the end of low-hanging fruit in the pharmaceuticals market.


This reminds me of a one-liner about selling:
The main thing a salesman needs is sincerety. Once he learns to fake that he can sell anything.

Even Duchenne - long time ago (he is referred to in Darwins book on emotional expression in man and animal) made the difference between the genuine and the fake smile - the genuine involving the muscle surrounding the eye, a muscle that we cannot crinkle on demand (unlike the upturned corners of the mouth). Presumably (if I remember this right from way back) it is controlled by a different area of the brain. You only fake it by the 'method acting' way. Think of something that makes you happy. (Ekman has looked extensively at that).

Recently my old adviser Paula Niedenthal has looked even more at the smiles, and it probably isn't that.... easy.


(That's a link to the Behavioral and Brain sciences article she did - or at least the abstract for those who are not fortunate enough to be linked to free access via a University).

Like thinking about how you are pulling one over on the person you are scamming?

Well, if it gets you pleasure, sure!



This is SO true... That's why I prefer to use these :) ;-) ;) and many others... I think they are convincing... at least in email :)

The inability to fake a genuine smile could be an evolutionary advantage by itself. People who would be able to easily fake a genuine smile could be considered to be untrustworthy over time when there are repeated interactions.

Our bodies conspire against our minds in many ways, sometimes for the better.

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