Smile on your face doesn’t necessarily mean that everything in your life is perfect and you’re happy.
In a new study led by body language expert Dr Harry Witchel, Discipline Leader in Physiology at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS,) it us suggested that smiling is usually observed when people are engaging with another person or group of people, in other words, they are socially engaged.
The experiment involved 44 participants aged from 18 to 35, who interacted with a computer alone in a room. They had to play a geography quiz game consisting of nine difficult questions so that they often got the answer wrong.
After the quiz, the participants were asked to rate their subjective experience using a range of 12 emotions including ‘bored’, ‘interested’ and ‘frustrated’.
Meanwhile, the video recorded the participants’ spontaneous facial expressions were then computer analyzed how much they were smiling.
The experiment revealed that the emotion was linked with engagement rather than happiness.
“According to some researchers, a genuine smile reflects the inner state of cheerfulness or amusement. However, Behavioural Ecology Theory suggests that all smiles are tools used in social interactions; that theory claims that cheerfulness is neither necessary nor sufficient for smiling,” Dr Witchel said in a press release.
“Our study showed that in these Human-Computer Interaction experiments, smiling is not driven by happiness; it is associated with subjective engagement, which acts like a social fuel for smiling, even when socialising with a computer on your own.”
Participants did not tend to smile during the period when they were trying to figure out the answers, but they did smile right after the computer game informed them if their answer was correct or wrong, and surprisingly, participants smiled more often when they got the answer wrong.
“During these computerized quizzes, smiling was radically enhanced just after answering questions incorrectly. This behavior could be explained by self-ratings of engagement, rather than by ratings of happiness or frustration,” Dr Witchel said.