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Laura Kay Sherman, Behavioral Science, Menchville High , Rhonda Taylor That’s a Real Smile!...or is it?. Abstract.

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laura kay sherman behavioral science menchville high rhonda taylor laurakay sherman@nn k12 va us

Laura Kay Sherman, Behavioral Science,Menchville High , Rhonda

That’s a Real Smile!...or is it?

  • The purpose of this project is to determine whether people can accurately tell if someone’s smile is genuine or fake. This project can be performed on any computer with an internet connection. Participants take an online quiz in which they are shown 20 different people smiling individually. The person performing the experiment must supervise each participant. Testers can only view each video once, and have ten minutes to complete the entire quiz. Since there are 20 smiles to analyze altogether, the tester’s score is rated out of twenty. The required passing score is 10 out of 20 smiles correctly analyzed. Out of 25 test subjects, only 3 failed to correctly distinguish fake smiles from real smiles. In conclusion, people can accurately decide whether someone’s smile is genuine or fake.
motivation purpose
Motivation/ Purpose
  • I was motivated to perform this experiment because I have interest in the field of Psychology. I found it fascinating that psychologists had spent hours researching, trying to understand how and when different facial expressions are made.
background research
  • Before starting this project, it was important to be comfortable with the functions of both the motor cortex and the cingulate cortex of the brain. The motor cortex controls voluntary motions of the face, while the cingulate cortex triggers spontaneous and emotionally driven smiles. A genuine smile is often referred to as a Duchenne smile, in which the mouth moves upwards and, most importantly, there is movement around the eyes. Non-genuine smiles often start or end abruptly.
  • Can people accurately tell whether someone’s smile is genuine or fake?
  • The student predicts that most people can not tell whether someone’s smile is genuine or fake.
  • The independent variable is the person smiling in the video clip.
  • The dependent variable is whether the smile is genuine or fake.
setup design materials
Setup Design/Materials
  • In order to carry out this experiment, I used:

-25 subjects ranging in age from 14-51

-A computer with internet connection

-Pen and paper to record results

methods procedure
  • Have one subject sit at a computer and take the Spot the Fake Smile test at. The person performing the project must observe the tester and make sure that he/she does not replay any of the video clips or ask anyone who has already taken the quiz for answers.
  • The person should not take more than 10 minutes to take the quiz.
  • Record the results and which part of the body they found most helpful in determining whether the smile was real or fake.
  • Compare the results with the hypothesis, and determine whether it was accepted or rejected.
results data1

The photo on the left depicts a Duchenne smile. Note the uplifted cheeks and wrinkling around the eyes. The non-Duchenne smile, shown on the right, has neither of these features. Subjects who analyzed using the eyes were usually successful in determining the difference!

  • The hypothesis was rejected. The subjects were able to determine whether the smile was genuine or fake based on the “Spot the Fake Smile” test. Subjects caught on that eyes were the key factor in differing the two. They successfully identified the genuine smiles.
works cited
Works cited

Ekman, P (2003) Darwin, Deception, and Facial Expression; Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1000: 205-221

  • Photo courtesy of Amy and Aneshka Drahota, 2008.