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The Duchenne Smile and Persuasion


We investigated persuasiveness as a social outcome of the ability to produce a deliberate Duchenne smile in a role-play task and of a participant’s use of a Duchenne smile while persuading someone in a live interaction. Participants were tasked with persuading an experimenter to drink a pleasant and unpleasant tasting juice as well as not drink a pleasant and unpleasant juice while being videotaped. Participants’ deliberate Duchenne smiling ability was measured by asking participants to smile while acting out “genuine happiness” and also to mask imagined negative affect with a smile. Smiles in the deliberate Duchenne smiling task and the persuasion task were coded for presence of the Duchenne marker, and naïve viewers of the persuasion task made ratings of how pleasant they thought the juice was. Results showed further evidence that a sizeable minority of people can deliberately produce a Duchenne smile and showed that those with this ability are more persuasive. When persuading to drink the pleasant tasting juice, the correlation between the ability to produce a deliberate Duchenne smile and persuasion was partially due to the use of the Duchenne smile while persuading, but this was not the case with the unpleasant tasting juice. When persuading to drink the unpleasant juice, participants who could deliberately put on the Duchenne smile were more persuasive but their persuasiveness was not the result of using a Duchenne smile during the persuasion task.

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Fig. 1


  1. Twenty-three of the participants in the present study had also completed the deliberate Duchenne role-play task in a previous unpublished study conducted in 2011. Their performance on the task the year earlier was correlated with the performance in the present study. Duchenne smiling across all smiling role-plays was correlated from Time 1 to Time 2, r(20) = .62, p < .01. However, this consistency was apparent only for Duchenne smiling in the “genuine happiness” role-plays, r(19) = .61, p < .01. Duchenne smiling in the “fake happiness” role-plays was not correlated between the 2 years, r(19) = .25, p = .25.

  2. These correlations differ from the correlations between persuasion and deliberate Duchenne smiling in the previous section, because they only include people who smiled while persuading. Thus the N dropped in both cases.


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The authors thank Matthew Poon, Jessica Katz, and Emily Dahlgaard for helping to conduct the studies and for video editing; Mollie Ruben for assistance with FACS coding; and Jin Goh for comments on a previous version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Sarah D. Gunnery.

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Gunnery, S.D., Hall, J.A. The Duchenne Smile and Persuasion. J Nonverbal Behav 38, 181–194 (2014).

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  • Duchenne smile
  • Persuasion
  • Expressive control
  • Individual differences