Happiness is…in a smile

Happiness is…in a smile

For decades, psychology and its researchers have focused on the negative side of humanity _ã” the things that bring dysfunction into our lives. Depression, sadness, anxiety, you name it. More recently, psychologists have also begun to better understand the value of positive emotions too. This understanding has resulted in a new field of research called _ã–positive psychology_㝠or _ã–happiness research._ã

So how do we recognize a positive emotion? Or put more simply, _ã–What_ã_s in a smile?_ã

A new paper just published by Disa Sauter (2010) helps us answer this question.

Happiness is In Your Smile

Psychological research into happiness has, for the most part, focused on facial expressions. It_ã_s no wonder: most of our communication _ã” both verbal and nonverbal _ã” comes from our face. People across cultures understand the value of a smile and other facial expressions that point toward the emotion we call _ã–being happy_㝠or happiness. And we know that smiling itself can help increase positive, pro-social behaviors.

But how much research has examined more specific positive emotions in facial expressions? Surprisingly, only one study has been conducted that examined how the face displays specific positive emotions. The researchers in that study found:

[…] that displays of amusement and pride were signaled by smiles, but that amused smiles tended to be open-mouthed, whereas smiles of pride had compressed lips. In contrast, awe was typically expressed with raised eyebrows and a slightly open mouth, but not with smiles.

This study highlights that there is likely more than one kind of smile and that different smile configurations may communicate different affective states.

Smiles are more complicated that the simple communication of happiness. They can communicate a wide range of positive emotions, depending upon their specific makeup.

Still interested? Read the remainder of this happiness and smiling artlcle – just click here