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A Smile: Connecting the World Through a Universal Language

Smiling Lady
A Smile: Connecting the World Through a Universal Language
on January, 09 2014

It is said that a smile is contagious. When you see someone smiling, your natural response is to smile back. Even without saying a word, you somehow understand what one is trying to convey to you just by smiling. There is not a person who does not know how to smile, unless he is physically constrained to flex his facial muscles for some reason. And yet, deep inside that individual, he may be smiling although he is not able to flex his lips in an effort to demonstrate the expression. Indeed, in the human world, a smile serves to be a universal language that connects people of all cultures and civilizations.

More than just muscle movement

Put into words, a smile is a facial look that is made by crooking the mouth with the corners tilting upward. By principle however, a smile is not just a muscle movement. Along with the flexed lip muscles, a smile usually goes with an overall facial expression that is made evident by the eyes. According to Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (de Boulogne), most smiles include the tightening of the muscles in the corner of the eyes, known as ‘Duchenne’ smile. Duchenne was a French neurologist who conducted studies on the behavior of neural routes that travel from the brain to the motor faculties of a person. A smile is more than just a muscle movement, for among people it could be a quiet voice that says they are pleased, amused or happy.

Multiple meanings

Despite the universality of smile as an unspoken language, it varies between different cultures. It was noted by researchers that Australians and Americans could be distinguished in photos with the way they smile. With a neutral facial expression, it was at first hard to identify from a group photo who was from the United States and who came from the Land Down Under. But when they were made to smile, their identities were easily recognized. Moreover, people from countries in Europe are more restrained in showing their emotion hence they smile sparingly. Americans however frequently flash a smile, even to strangers for that matter. Asians on the other hand are more demonstrative of their feelings as most of them smile generously with their eyes getting smaller, causing lines to appear at the corner.

Kinds of smile

There are many kinds of smile that are inherent in anyone regardless of their culture and ethnicity. As known to all, a smile can be deceiving on the account that it can either be real and spontaneous or fake and artificial. Researchers have emphasized that a genuine smile that expresses genuine happiness is one that is accompanied by eye expression, which is manifested through the lines at the corner of the eyes. A fake smile is one that bolts out in a flash, with little or no expression in the eyes at all. Meanwhile, you know when it is a genuine smile when it spontaneously reels on the face and slowly fades away, but still the pleased appearance on the face stays a while longer.

Effective mask

As pointed out, a smile may reflect varied emotions. People smile when they are happy or excited about something. They smile when they are worried, which is, in this case, appears to be a nervous smile. They also smile when they are in a waiting line simply to show their patience while they wait for their turn. People also smile when they are embarrassed or shy. And on the whole, they smile simply out of boredom or from want of saying something to another person, which they cannot find the words for. Alas, there are times when people smile all they want even if they do not feel like celebrating because they need to camouflage what truly lurks in your heart.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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