Duchenne smile

What does a smile say?  Are you truly happy?  Are you uncomfortable?  Did a photographer tell you to say cheese?

In his book BlinkMalcolm Gladwell refers to research done by Paul Ekman, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California, San Francisco. Ekman is an expert on facial expressions and has written many books, including “Emotions Revealed, Unmasking the Face” and “Telling Lies.

(Oliver Sacks wrote, “No one in the world has studied facial expressions as deeply as Paul Ekman. In ‘Emotions Revealed’ he presents — clearly, vividly, and in the most accessible way — his fascinating observations about the covert expressions of emotions we all encounter hundreds of times daily, but so often misunderstand or fail to see. There has not been a book of such range and insight since Darwin’s famous ‘Expression of the Emotions’ more than a century ago.”)

(Copyright Paul Ekman 2003, “Emotions Revealed,” Owl Books, 2007.)

A Duchenne smile contracts the zygomatic muscles of the cheek and eye, forming crow’s feet. The crow’s feet indicate that the smile is genuine and that the smiler is truly happy. It was discovered by and is named after Guillaume Duchenne.

What got me started on this?  A fascinating blog post by Errol Morris, a documentary filmmaker, whose movie The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2004 and the recently released Standard Operating Procedure, a documentary about the Abu Ghraib scandal.

What do the smiles on the faces of Lyndie England and Sabrina Harman mean?  How do you explain the smile? Not only are they smiling, they’re smiling with their thumbs-up – with tortured men and over a dead body. The photograph on the right suggests that Harman may have killed the guy, and she looks proud of it. She looks happy.   But, it’s not a Duchenne smile – there is much more to the story.  Keep reading.

 

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1 Response to “Duchenne smile”


  1. 1 Matt H. May 22, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind also discusses Paul Ekman‘s work – he describes it as a “must read” for every sales professional. Some really amazing stuff about human behaviors.


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