Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 231–243 | Cite as

American-Japanese cultural differences in attributions of personality based on smiles

  • David Matsumoto
  • Tsutomu Kudoh


Several studies have already documented how Americans and Japanese differ in both the expression and perception of facial expressions of emotion in general, and of smiles in particular. These cultural differences can be linked to differences in cultural display and decoding rules (Ekman, 1972; and Buck, 1984, respectively). The existence of these types of rules suggests that people of different cultures may hold different assumptions about social-personality characteristics, on the basis of smiling versus non-smiling faces. We suggest that Americans have come to associate more positive characteristics to smiling faces than do the Japanese. We tested this possibility by presenting American and Japanese judges with smiles or neutral faces (i.e., faces with no muscle movement) depicted by both Caucasian and Japanese male and female posers. The judges made scalar ratings of each face they viewed on four different dimensions. The findings did indicate that Americans and Japanese differed in their judgments, but not on all dimensions.


Social Psychology Facial Expression Cultural Difference Positive Characteristic Muscle Movement 
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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Matsumoto
    • 1
  • Tsutomu Kudoh
  1. 1.Department of PsychologySan Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco

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