Research on how leaders smile reveals there is more to those ear-to-ear grins than vote pandering. Politicians and leaders smile (or don’t) for a variety of reasons. Some are cultural (big smiles are big in the West; not so in the East). Others are used to deflect, to palliate and to disarm. As this article will show, there’s a lot going on behind a happy, smiling face.
According to an article in the journal Emotion, American leaders typically like to convey warm, welcoming grins because these embody the American sense of vitality and confidence. Take these photos of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders:
Both appear confident, avuncular (or, in Clinton’s case, materteral), even approachable. Clinton’s smile is expansive; Sanders’ is that of a man relishing an anecdote. What could possibly be amiss with these two confident individuals? Possibly nothing; possibly, quite a lot.
Smiles can be deceiving and used for deception. So says Arkansas psychologist Patrick Stewart. Stewart and colleagues combed through videos taken at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). They found nary a sincere smile in the bunch. As a result, Stewart and colleagues came up with five classifications of (mostly) political/public smirks, smiles, grins and spins (as in just putting a happy face on everything).
Queen Elizabeth II recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She has endured a lot during her time on the throne. She provides us with a perfectly level smile. But being the epitome of British reserve, it is nearly impossible to discern what she discerns in this photograph. Perhaps she is girding herself for an impending embrace from the late Rob Ford. Whatever the occasion, the Queen never lets down her guard
Lastly, Sarah Palin. The former Alaskan governor shows blossoming contempt in this shot. Notice the right corner of her mouth is creeping upwards. She also carries a look of incredulity, as if someone just questioned her assertion she can see the Kremlin from the roof of her car.
Paul Ekman is considered the world’s foremost expert on the science of facial expressions. The Fox television series “Lie to Me” was based on Ekman’s research, and he was the consultant on the Pixar film, “Inside Out.” Many of Ekman’s smile classifications mirror what are listed above. But one, the felt smile, should provide incentive for anyone except a true curmudgeon to muster up more sincere smiles. Like the enjoyment smile, the felt smile conveys pure joy. More, it’s indicative of complete contentment. And a true smile can improve physical and mental health.
Felt and enjoyment smiles make one think of Byron when he wrote
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Darren Fraser is a content writer for Sovereign Health Group. He worked two and half years as reporter and researcher for The Yomiuri Shimbun until they realized he did not read, speak or write Japanese and fired him. Undeterred, he channels his love of research into unearthing stories that provide hope to those dealing with addiction and mental illness. Darren loves the Montreal Canadiens hockey club and horror films and would prefer to enjoy these from the comforts of his family’s farm in Quebec. For more information about this media, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.