When’s the last time you remember seeing Vladimir Putin with a (non maniacal) grin on his face?
And according to the research it’s not simply that the general populous of these countries is wallowing in misery, there are actually some key societal reasons behind their grinless grimaces.
Kuba Krys – a psychologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences – recently published a paper about ‘uncertainty avoidance’, a phenomenon whereby the general perception of a stranger’s smile is that it represents uncertainty.
The characteristic is most commonly found in societies which experience high levels of political repression, where schooling is respected and structured around sciences and where strong social norms are preferred.
Corruption appears to be a little more prevalent in these societies and civil services have a tendency to be more unstable.
As a result of this, Mr Krys argues that smiling in countries such as these is less welcome and is often viewed as ‘duplicitous’.
To test this theory, the study asked thousands of people in 44 countries to judge eight smiling and non-smiling faces.
The results varied enormously from country to country, with the overall impression in places such as Japan and Iran being that smiling portrayed you as being ‘less intelligent’.
People in places like Argentina and Zimbabwe viewed smiling faces as ‘untrustworthy’ and for Russians a smiley person was perceived as being of low intelligence, deceitful and duplicitous. Wow.
The research concluded:
This indicates that corruption at the societal level may weaken the meaning of an evolutionary important signal such as smiling.
So just remember not to look too happy if you want people to respect you as an intelligent and trustworthy person I suppose…
Journal of Non Verbal Behaviour