Behind Every Smile

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SA Mind

Credit: Scientific American MIND, July/August 2022

A fascinating study was published in 2015 showing that in cultures with higher rates of immigration, its citizens tended to smile more. Nonverbal communication is essential for people who speak a variety of languages to communicate with one another and get along. The U.S., with 83 “source countries” populating its communities, scored far higher on this scale of emotional expressiveness than, for example, China, whose population is more homogeneous. As psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett explains in this issue, there are many social factors that influence how people express their emotions through facial gestures. (See “Darwin Was Wrong”: Your Facial Expressions Don’t Reveal Your Emotions). Although I may be biased towards smiling faces as an American, it makes me smile to think about this happy side effect of our country’s diversity.

Elsewhere in this edition, writer Lydia Denworth reports on a new study from the Journal of Beatles Studies (yes, one exists) that explores the role of luck in finding fame and success (see “Can’t Buy Me Luck: The Role of Serendipity in the Beatles’ Success”). As the study author tells Denworth, when it comes to achieving greatness for any of us, “something like lightning might strike, which can bring a smile to the face on a tough morning.”

This article was originally published with the title “Behind Every Smile” in SA Mind 33, 4, (July 2022)



    Andrea Gawrylewski is the collections editor at Scientific American

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