How to identify a fake smile?


Most people are surprisingly bad at spotting fake smiles. One possible explanation for this is that it may be easier for people to get along if they don’t always know what others are really feeling.

Although fake smiles often look very similar to genuine smiles, they are actually slightly different, because they are brought about by different muscles, which are controlled by different parts of the brain.

Fake smiles can be performed at will, because the brain signals that create them come from the conscious part of the brain and prompt the zygomaticus major muscles in the cheeks to contract. These are the muscles that pull the corners of the mouth outwards.

Genuine smiles, on the other hand, are generated by the unconscious brain, so are automatic. When people feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of the brain that processes emotion. As well as making the mouth muscles move, the muscles that raise the cheeks – the orbicularis oculi and the pars orbitalis – also contract, making the eyes crease up, and the eyebrows dip slightly.

Lines around the eyes do sometimes appear in intense fake smiles, and the cheeks may bunch up, making it look as if the eyes are contracting and the smile is genuine. But there are a few key signs that distinguish these smiles from real ones. For example, when a smile is genuine, the eye cover fold – the fleshy part of the eye between the eyebrow and the eyelid – moves downwards and the end of the eyebrows dip slightly.

Scientists distinguish between genuine and fake smiles by using a coding system called the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), which was devised by Professor Paul Ekman of the University of California and Dr Wallace V. Friesen of the University of Kentucky.

Now I want to talk about other smiling faces you often see, but their meaning and expression is quite different from the usual smile. Here is a list of smiles that you can currently wear – for all ocassions.

1. The Smug Smile

You know that smile – the self satisfied, arrogant and kinda of evil smile.smug-smile


Lips – Usually pressed together and only one side coming up. Can be done with a lips slightly separated. The upper lip may also rise a bit.

Eyes – Can narrow a little to create some kind of suspicious look.


Usually a sign of self satisfaction, arrogance and expression of superiority.
It can also be a sign of doubt and an attempt to dismiss someone’s opinion.
If the upper lip rises – it’s probably a sign of ridicule.

Interestingly, it can be used in flirting as a sign of humor and playfulness – to try and catch attention and interest from the other side.

2. Half Smile

This smile is quite similar to the smug, only with a slight adjustment and a different meaning.4150738139_68730bf955_o


Lips – One half of the lips creates a smile, the other half expressing frown. It’s actually not that natural to make this face expression, so it’s quite rare in my experience.


It sends a conflict message – is it a smile or a frown? Usually it’s a sign of sarcasm, embarrassment or cynicism.

This smiling face can stir some protective and attentive emotional response in the eyes of the viewer – we connect to the person with his half smile, and feel empathy because of the sad half.

3. Open Mouth Smile

A BIG smile with an open mouth.563763_626533570693776_594436875_n


Lips – A wide open smile with the jaw drops down – it looks like a frozen laughter.

Eyes – Can crease and arch just like in a genuine smile.


It’s a more trained smile really… used to draw a lot of positive attention and suggests happiness mixed with playfulness. You can see a lot of politicians and actors with smiling faces like these for photogenic photo. If you want to look more photogenic and happy in your photos you can try practicing this one. Just think of something funny and smile.

4. Tight Lips Smile

The title speaks for itself, no? Smile


Lips – The lips are pressed together and forming a smile. Can be short, can be wide…


In both cases the meaning is quite the same. The person can be happy but restraining himself, or not completely showing his feeling or thoughts.

5. Natural Smile natural smile

A natural smile produces characteristic wrinkles around the eyes-insincere people smile only with their mouth.

OK, let’s conclude all this happiness – I hope your face muscles got a little practice, and you learned a thing or two.

So, we discussed the meaning and power of the smile in body language. We learned to identify real smiles from fake ones, and now we know how discern different types of smiling faces… I didn’t list them all here but I showed you a lot, so you can identify other varieties yourself. Just remember as always – it’s only guidelines, use them to guide you to reveal more, don’t judge people based only on one face expression.

15 thoughts on “How to identify a fake smile?

  1. Pingback: 1. Smile. A lot. | 1000 Ways to Life

  2. Anna

    Hi, can you pleeeease let me know, if you have knowledge as to who belongs to the beautiful face, in the picture under the heading “tthe smug smile”. Each time I look at this picture, which by the way, I don’t find at all smug but absolute enchantingly sweet and happy…it makes me laugh and makes my day. Looks like it was taken a few decades ago.
    Thank you,

    1. leadingpersonality Post author

      Hi, I have the same rush of feelings when i see this picture but the person or location where the picture was taken is unknown. As you said, it could be a few decades ago, I’ve made some research but couldn’t find any information about it.
      Glad to have you as our reader.
      Leading Personality

  3. Anna

    Thank you for your reply…I guess I will just have to enjoy looking at this picture and be thankful for the happy smile it puts on MY face..:)

  4. Ash

    I guess all with a maternal instinct would take this to heart, I have no idea regarding the validity of these claims. I think if we were viewing adults with these expressions, perhaps the opinions would go in a different route.

    Adults tend to gush over infants rather than think logically. I for one got my half smile due to the fact that I have more crooked teeth on the side that I don’t push up in a smile therefore, if one were to catch me laughing outwardly, they would be focused on the side that resembles a smile, not my more crooked set. After time, the muscles develop more on the half smile side, so it might not even be deliberate.

    If you were to view an adult doing this, you’d immediately think there was something off. n infancy, one can only draw conclusions, as the infant can not vocalize their feelings. I’m not sure this is a sound basis for understanding, and making conclusions about facial expressions in general. I may have missed something in my Google search, if this is purely about infant expressions, my apologies.

    1. leadingpersonality Post author

      The subject of this article was based on the general reactions that people have regarding smile. Off course that based on a single article you don’t become an artist at reading one’s emotions and you have to know that person to know what he’s reactions are and when a smile is legit (honest) or not.

  5. leelavathi

    this face readings helps u understand pepals who r their in our life may be it will some time works we should reqvaire this knowdlage but we should not completely dependent opoun it it is just common sence thanks for gaids

  6. Pingback: How to Beat the Monday Blues | Confessions of a sober essex girl

    1. leadingpersonality Post author

      I will try to make a well documented post for micro expressions but you have to understand that this is a big subject and there will allways be information that will not be included due to the massive information that is.

  7. Pingback: “FAKE smile” – Site Title

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s