Functional significance of the affiliative smile


Common human social signals, such as smiling, are often attributed certain functions without documentation. The intent of this study was to ascertain the efficacy of the affiliative smile in a minimal social space. Elevators were chosen as the observational setting, since dyadic interactions have a definite beginning (entrance) and ending (exit). Eight hundred adults (males and females, ages 19-60 years) were observed as they entered individually an elevator where a male or female observer stood in one of nine equally divided floor cells and displayed either an affiliative smile or a neutral face (no smile). In the affiliative situation (particularly for female observers), the distance between the subject and the observer was significantly shorter than in the neutral situation, where the distance was maximized.


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Correspondence to Joan S. Lockard.

Additional information

The authors wish to thank W. Bernds and H. Klein for their assistance in Study 1; J. Gaston, A. Hartley, J. Sevenich, C. Peck, S. Takano, and M. Smith, who were instrumental in the conduct of Study 2; and S. Franklin and B. Trent for their help in data collation, analyses, and graphics.

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Lockard, J.S., Mcvittie, R.I. & Isaac, L.M. Functional significance of the affiliative smile. Bull. Psychon. Soc. 9, 367–370 (1977).

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  • Social Spacing
  • Personal Space
  • Floor Plan
  • Dyadic Interaction
  • Neutral Face