Judith A. Hall


Derek M. Isaacowitz, Rhea T. Eskew

Date of Award


Date Accepted


Degree Grantor

Northeastern University

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department or Academic Unit

College of Science. Department of Psychology.


Duchenne smile, Facial expression perception, Nonverbal communication


Applied Behavior Analysis | Personality and Social Contexts | Psychology


The Duchenne smile, which is a smile that involves activation of the cheek raiser muscle that creates crow's feet around the eyes, has long been thought of as an infallible expression of genuine happiness (Ekman, Friesen, & Hager, 2002). Recent research has begun to show that the Duchenne smile can be deliberately produced (Gunnery, Hall, & Ruben, 2013; Krumhuber & Manstead, 2009). As the ability to deliberately produce a Duchenne smile continues to be documented, the questions become why someone might want to produce a Duchenne smile deliberately, and what the social outcomes of being able to do so are. The goals of the current dissertation were to first summarize the previous literature on perceptions of Duchenne smiles to gain clarity on how people who produce Duchenne smiles are perceived differently from those who produce non-Duchenne smiles (i.e., smiles without cheek raiser activation), and, second, to investigate how people who are able to produce a deliberate Duchenne smile use the Duchenne smile in real social situations. Lastly this dissertation strove to uncover what the consequences of having the ability to produce a deliberate Duchenne smile are in the contexts of persuasion and liking.

A meta-analysis was conducted to test the combined effect of differences between perceptions of Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles. In addition to testing the overall effect, moderator analyses were conducted to test how methodological, stimulus specific, and perceiver specific differences between studies predicted the overall effect size. The meta-analysis found that, overall, Duchenne smiles and people producing Duchenne smiles are rated more positively (i.e., authentic, genuine, real, attractive, trustworthy) than non-Duchenne smiles and people producing non-Duchenne smiles. The difference between Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles was greater when the stimuli were static photographs rather than dynamic videos, when smiles were elicited naturally rather than through posing paradigms, and when Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles were not matched for intensity of the lip corner puller. These results provide evidence that the benefits of how people that Duchenne smile are perceived by others may motivate people to want to deliberately produce a Duchenne smile.

Study 2 continued to examine these reasons with an investigation of how the ability to deliberately produce a Duchenne smile and use of the Duchenne smile in a social interaction were related to how persuasive an individual was rated to be. A taste perception paradigm (Feldman, Tomasian, & Coats, 1999) was utilized where targets sipped a sweet pleasant tasting juice and a very tart unpleasant tasting juice and had to smile and persuade another person to drink the juice. Participants then completed a deliberate Duchenne smiling paradigm to measure their ability to deliberately produce a Duchenne smile. Naïve perceivers watched videotapes of the taste tasks and rated how likely they would be to try the juice. Results showed that participants who showed the ability to produce a Duchenne smile were more persuasive both when persuading to drink the pleasant juice and when persuading to drink the unpleasant juice, but participants only successfully used the Duchenne smile to persuade after drinking the pleasant tasting juice. These findings indicate that people who have the ability to deliberately produce a Duchenne smile are perceived as more persuasive, and that they only use the Duchenne smile to persuade in a context where they might be feeling underlying positive affect.

Moving to a different social context, Study 3 tested the relationship between the ability to produce a Duchenne smile, use of the Duchenne smile in a social interaction, and liking. Study 3 used a dyadic interaction paradigm where two participants had a conversation with each other while being videotaped. Following the interaction, participants made ratings of how much they liked their partner. All participants, again, completed the deliberate Duchenne smiling paradigm. Videotapes of the interaction were then coded for presence of the Duchenne smiles, and these tapes were shown to a group of naïve viewers who rated how much they liked each participant. Results from Study 3 showed that the ability to deliberately Duchenne smile was correlated with use of the Duchenne smile in the social interactions. However, Duchenne smiling in the social interactions was not related to partner rated liking. Naïve raters did report liking participants who Duchenne smiled in the interactions more when controlling for the amount participants non-Duchenne smiled in the interaction. This indicated that while Duchenne smiles may not be used as a cue to liking in live interactions where there are verbal cues present, when information is limited people do rely on the presence of the Duchenne marker when deciding how much they like another individual.

Taken together, these three studies provide evidence that the ability to produce a deliberate Duchenne smile is a useful skill both as a way to communicate positive affect to others and to present oneself in a more positive way. In addition, Studies 2 and 3 show that people with the ability to deliberately produce a Duchenne smile, use it more in social interactions where one might feel happy.

Document Type


Rights Holder

Sarah D. Gunnery

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