About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm


Friday, 9 October 2009

Dr Donnacha Hanna, a lecture in Psychology from Queens University in Belfast will come into studio to talk about the psychology of smiling and to analyse smiles Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Worcester, Massachusetts created the smiley face in 1963. That image went on to become the most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer on the planet..

As the years passed Harvey Ball became concerned about the over-commercialization of his symbol, and how its original meaning and intent had become lost in the constant repetition of the marketplace. Out of that concern, came his idea for World Smile Day. He thought that we, all of us, should devote one day each year to smiles and kind acts throughout the world. The smiley face knows no politics, no geography and no religion.

Harvey's idea was that for at least one day each year, neither should we. He declared that the first Friday in October each year would henceforth be World Smile Day. Ever since that first World Smile Day held in 1999, it has continued every year in Smiley's hometown of Worcester, MA and around the world.

Dr Donnacha Hanna
School of Psychology in the Queen's University, Belfast

What early studies have been done on the smile?

Charles Darwin was one of the first who conducted a study on smiles. He said that when people smile in different parts of the world it means the same thing and it is universal.
We can also recognise smile in the animal world and what it means..
We know that when animals smile this signifies, joy and happiness. It can also signify submission in the animal world, with the open mouth.

Do we start smiling when we are born?
Development of the smile is very early. The smile is in build and we don't have to learn it. A smile is one of the first things that a child will recognise. When and when a child smiles when looking at his/her mother, this will foster the bond between the mother and child

Can you recognise a fake smile from a real one?
Yes, there are a number of things to look for when people are smiling. We have a natural smile of joy, the eyes around the eyes are half closed and the lines or wrinkles around the eyes come into focus. This doesn't happen when the smile is not natural or fake.

Are we more attracted subconsciously to people who smile as opposed to people who are not smiling?
If we were to look at two pictures of people, and one is smiling and the other isn't, research shows that people will be attracted to the picture of the person who is smiling.

Is there some cultural difference between countries regarding smiling?
There are some subtle differences. in Japan, for example, the Japanese will not smile when they are getting their wedding photos taken. In the Western world people are expected to smile when at weddings, but they tend to not smile in Japan. They are not told to do this, but it accepted that people do not smile in Japan for events like this. In Ireland we might ask why, if we look at a wedding photo and people are not smiling, but in Japan they wouldn't.

What about other countries?
In America, they tend to simile more and gesture more than in Europe. An in Southern Europe, in countries like Spain and Italy, they tend to smile more than when in northern Europe.
What are the points to look out for when people are smiling, to see whether it is fake or not?

Look around the eyes: the eyes should narrow and the lines around the eyes should become more prominent.

Look at whet the hands are doing: If the hands are clasped or if the hands are touching their face, then this signifies that the person is possibly uncomfortable. This is a subconscious action.
Look at what the eyes are doing, they will look at you in a different place when it is a real or a fake smile. When the smile is real, the eyes will look straight at you. If the smile is fake, the eyes will tend to look away.