Masks Do Not Cover Genuine Smiles

(p. D3) Women do tend to smile more than men, across age groups and ethnicities. But it’s not necessarily because they are happier; in fact, women suffer higher rates of depression. Rather, said Marianne LaFrance, a psychologist at Yale University who studies gender and nonverbal communication, women feel pressure to smile, and they can be penalized if they don’t.

“Women get completely socialized that smiling should be the default expression on their face,” said Dr. LaFrance, the author of “Why Smile? The Science Behind Facial Expressions.” “So everyone expects it, including women themselves.”

. . .

As Dr. LaFrance described it, it is the social, obligatory smile — “which is the one that women do the most,” she said — that tends to be focused on the mouth muscles, easily covered up by a medical mask. But a genuine smile, or what is know in the field as the Duchenne smile (named for Guillaume Duchenne), a French anatomist who discovered it, involves both the mouth and the eyes.

“What’s interesting,” Dr. LaForce said, is that the facial muscle engaged by a genuine smile — what’s called the orbicularis oculi — can’t be used on command.

“So will the mask stifle a smile? No. Not unless it’s a fake one,” she said.

For the full commentary, see:

Jessica Bennett. “How Emotions Play Out Behind the Masks.” The New York Times (Thursday, June 11, 2020): D3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 10, 2020 and has the title “Silver Lining to the Mask? Not Having to Smile”.)

The book by LaFrance, mentioned in a passage quoted above, is:

LaFrance, Marianne. Why Smile?: The Science Behind Facial Expressions. pb ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013.

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