How to Identify a Fake Smile

Stretch your lips and you are smiling. Say “cheese” and you are still smiling. Is smiling that easy to do? Well, the act itself might be simple but smiling a sincere smile is not. So we just fake a smile to other people when we have to. Not that we want to fake our smile to people, as much as we do not want them to give us an insincere smile. But when does a smile become fake? How do we spot a fake smile? What are signs of a fake smile?

A smile is a facial expression of pleasure, joy, happiness, or amusement that is understood by everyone regardless of race, culture, religion, or orientation. Other than being happy, a smile is sometimes given to avoid hurting other’s feelings, consoling or sympathizing other people, and giving support or encouragement. There are many different types of smiles but only two are of greatest importance – the real and fake smile.

The Duchenne smile, or the real smile, is named after physician Guillaume Duchenne who first recognized the muscles involved with this smile. A Duchenne smile contracts both the zygomatic major muscle (which raises the corners of the mouth) and the orbicularis oculi muscle (which raises the cheeks and forms crow’s feet around the eyes).  Hence, when a person is genuinely happy or positive with his emotions, he smiles with both his mouth and eye. 

On the other hand, the Pan-Am smile, also called as non-Duchenne smile, “Botox mile” or fake smile, only involves the zygomatic major muscles which are forced by a person in order to give a polite smile. The smile is then limited only to the lips and there is no contraction in the eye area.

Knowing the different muscles that make us smile, it is now easy to recognize a real smile from a fake one. Here are some things to remember:

  1. Look at the end of the eyebrows which dip slightly with a real smile. The fold of the skin between the eyebrow and the eyelid also moves downward when a smile is sincere. Likewise, the eyes crease up.
  2. A fake smile is also less symmetrical than a genuine smile since a forced or voluntary control of the zygomatic major is not always perfect. Such smile appears to be a bit more left sided or right sided.
  3. A real smile lasts for only a few seconds while a fake one can last much longer. A fake smile can be held for as long as one wants.
Moreover, “most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles” based on University of California psychological research. A reason for this is that people find it easy to get along if they do not know what others are really feeling.



  1. Smile is the inner expression of a person through facial expression.

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