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How To Tell The Difference Between A Genuine Smile Vs. A Social Smile

Written by: Janette Ghedotte, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


In your personal or professional interactions, wouldn’t you want to know how well you are being received by, connecting with, and influencing others to move them towards the “YES” to take action?

Photo credit: Robin Gamble of Robin Gamble Photography.
Photo credit: Robin Gamble of Robin Gamble Photography.

You want a favorable outcome whether you are negotiating a multimillion-dollar business deal, on your first date, at a networking event, or raising your children.

Here are three important communication aspects that you need to know:

  1. What verbal and nonverbal messages are being exchanged,

  2. What impressions are being conveyed, and

  3. How are you being perceived?

Understanding how to detect and decode both verbal and nonverbal messages offer valuable intel to assess the situation and lead you to the answers.

Smiling is one of the best body language clues to convey a positive impression and to indicate that things are going well.

A smile LIGHTS up a room! When you smile, your brain releases more:

  • neuropeptides,

  • dopamine, serotonin, and

  • endorphins

For an overall feeling of happiness along with stress and pain relief.

Inside the brain and the body,

  • Chemical messenger neuropeptides help to modulate the release of neurotransmitters relating to synaptic signaling, bodily functions, sensory perception, and emotions.

  • Neurotransmitter dopamine is a chemical messenger and is involved in motivation, reward, mood, attention, happiness, and pleasure.

  • Hormone serotonin regulates overall mood, emotional well-being, happiness, and cognitive abilities.

  • Endorphin hormones ease pain and help you feel connected.

Outside the brain and the body, our smiles make us look more attractive. We feel sensational when we flash or see genuine smiles and laughter in others. Smiling is a positive sign that you are friendly, welcoming, and approachable.

Smiling enhances comfort and ease. Smiling indicates a good mood and can ignite the mirror neurons in others to respond accordingly with their own smiles. When you smile, others tend to naturally match and mirror smiling with you.

But, do you know the difference between a GENUINE smile versus a SOCIAL smile?

In a genuine smile, the entire face should be lit up and engaged!

Facial muscles are more activated and expressive in a genuine smile:

  • The forehead occipitofrontalis muscles are relaxed and smooth without stress lines.

  • The orbicularis oculi muscles pull upward to tighten the eyes and eyelids into a squint with less pupils showing resulting in wrinkles appearing on the outer edges of the eyes. The eyes look slightly or completely closed.

  • The procerus muscle between the eyes and at the bridge of the nose lift which may result in wrinkling in the area.

  • The levator labii superioris, zygomaticus major, and zygomaticus minor cheek muscles rise and make the cheeks appear rounder and more prominent.

  • The levator labii superioris and orbicularis oris mouth muscles work together to lift and open the lips wider and expose more of the teeth and gums.

  • The upper teeth lift and separate from the lower teeth.

  • “Puppet lines” appear from the outer edge of the nose to the mouth corners.

So, pay attention because genuine smiles produce gravity-defying activation in the facial muscles between the eyebrows and mouth areas.

When you can get others to feel so at ease that they are smiling and laughing, then you’ve achieved a deep sense of rapport and connection. When you smile, others tend to naturally match and reciprocate smiling with you!

Our emotions in social smiles are not as strong. Therefore, the facial muscles do not lift upward as much. People may attempt to mimic a genuine smile to be socially appropriate in the situation, but if they are not feeling true happiness, joy, or exhilaration in the moment, their smiles will be forced and less authentic.

Compared to muscle activation in genuine smiles, in social smiles:

  • The eyes are open enough to see the pupils and whites of the eyes because the surrounding orbicularis oculi muscles are more relaxed.

  • The facial muscles between the eyebrows and mouth appear neutral without as much gravity-defying lift.

  • Upper and lower teeth are closer or touching together.

  • The facial or mouth expressions may appear neutral, forced, awkward, or asymmetric.

Our facial muscles respond immediately to how we are feeling in the moment based on the sensory information that the brain receives and the people with whom we are interacting.

Remember, genuine smiles will produce more facial muscle activation and upward lift than social smiles.

When you and others are sharing genuine smiles and laughter, you have achieved true connection and have the best opportunities to get them to say “YES,” take action, and move them toward your desired outcome.

From Head to Toes, the BODY Always Shows the TRUTH.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and visit my website for more info!


Janette Ghedotte, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Truth & Deception Detection Expert Janette Ghedotte is a MA LLP Clinical Psychologist, Founder, and CEO of Accurate Body Language.

Accurate Body Language is the KEY to crack the code, unlock the vault of nonverbal communication, and reveal the secrets of human interaction.

With over 20 years of corporate business, marketing research, advertising & strategic brand positioning, and clinical psychology experience, Janette specializes in understanding the complexities of human behavior, interpersonal relationships, verbal, and nonverbal body language communication.


Photo Credit: Robin Gamble of Robin Gamble Photography


Russo A. F. (2017). Overview of Neuropeptides: Awakening the Senses? Headache, 57 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), 37–46.

Jenkins, T., Nguyen, J., Polglaze, K., & Bertrand, P. (2016). Influence of Tryptophan and Serotonin on Mood and Cognition with a Possible Role of the Gut-Brain Axis. Nutrients, 8(1), 56. MDPI AG.

Genuine Smile (06:22 mins)



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