Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 259–275

Detecting Happiness: Perceiver Sensitivity to Enjoyment and Non-Enjoyment Smiles

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10919-007-0036-4

Cite this article as:
Miles, L. & Johnston, L. J Nonverbal Behav (2007) 31: 259. doi:10.1007/s10919-007-0036-4


The physiognomic distinctions between spontaneous enjoyment smiles and deliberate non-enjoyment smiles provide the social perceiver with a functional, accessible source of information to help regulate social interaction. Two experiments were performed to investigate whether perceivers were sensitive to this information in a contextually meaningful manner. In Experiment 1, participants were asked to judge whether a target individual was happy or not. The results revealed that participants were indeed sensitive to the differences between enjoyment and non-enjoyment smiles. In Experiment 2, participants performed a priming task without any specific instruction to judge emotional state. Neutral expressions, non-enjoyment smiles and enjoyment smiles were employed as primes in a word valence identification task. The results demonstrated a clear trend indicative of perceiver sensitivity. When compared to a the baseline condition of a neutral expression prime, enjoyment but not non-enjoyment smiles facilitated identification of positive words.


Facial expressionHappinessDeliberate non-enjoyment smileSpontaneous enjoyment smileSocial perception

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of AberdeenAberdeenScotland
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand