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Types of Smiles

We have 135 distinct gestures and expressions of our face, head and body. A British research team has catalogued these and registered that 80 of them are head gestures. It takes 64 muscles to frown and only 13 muscles of face are used to smile. Though we generally consider smiling is the expression of happiness and pleasure, we should also remember that smiles are not always associated with happy moments. The basic smiles are

Simple Smile

This type of smile takes place with teeth unexposed, generally found in persons busy with any outgoing activity.

Upper Smile

In this type of smile, the upper incisors are exposed and people make this smile while meeting others keeping eye to eye contact. It is done during greeting, meeting friend etc.

Broad Smile

During this type of smile, both the upper and lower incisors are exposed. It happens during a goal in football match or in any other games and sports. Generally no eye to eye contact takes place during this type of smile.

Oblong Smile

Oblong smiles are not a real smile and generally made as a part of courtesy or politeness. During this type of smiles the lips are drawn fully back from both the upper and lower teeth and thereby making the oblong with the lips. During formal moments, these types of smile are seen more as to give feelings that the joke was very nice.

Spotting a Genuine Smile

French scientist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne used electrodiagnotics and electronic stimulation to distinguish the smile of real enjoyment and other kinds of smiling by experimenting with the heads of people who were executed in the guillotine testing how facial muscles reacted. He found out there is two sets of muscles that control the way we genuinely smile, zygomatic major muscles which run down the side of the face and connect to the corners of the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi muscles that pull back the eyes. The zygomatic majors pull the mouth back exposing the teeth and enlarging the cheeks, the orbicularis oculis however make the eyes narrower and cause wrinkles in the corners of them.

The zygomatic major muscles can be consciously controlled allowing people to show insincere friendliness or subordination through fake smiles, the orbicularis oculis however can’t be controlled acting independently when feeling pleasure and reveal our true feelings…if you want to know how to distinguish genuine enjoyment smiles, observe the wrinkles in the corner beside the eyes, the eyebrows will also slightly dip down. Ever wonder why they ask you to say “Cheese” when taking a photo? Pronouncing the word pulls back on your zygomatic muscles but they forget about the orbicularis oculis resulting in a fake smile.

Common Types of Smiles

Apart from the above mentioned zygomatic majors/orbicularis oculis sincere smile (known simply as ‘Duchenne’), and the fake smile, there’s around 50 different types of smiles that have been found, the following are the most commonly used:

Tight Lipped

In this one, the lips are tightly stretched across the face forming a straight line and concealing the teeth, this smile is not so much used by liars as by people who have secrets or are withholding their true opinion or attitude towards something. It’s also used as a polite smile by someone who doesn’t like her company but doesn’t know how to get rid of them.


This is a funny one, smirking is when someone displays two different emotions on their face, the zygomatic muscles on, let’s say the right side of the face for this example, will pull the right side cheek and lip upwards, but the right side of the brain controls the left side of the face and will have the opposite effect of pulling downwards on those same muscles of the other side, giving a smile/frown contradiction effect. Try looking at the example picture on the side, if you put a piece of paper right through the middle covering the right or left side, you’ll see two different types of emotions in the faces are expressed. This type of smile displays sarcasm.

Shy Smile

This one works marvels on men with the head turned slightly downwards and facing away while looking upwards and holding a Tight Lipped smile, it will make the person look more innocent, juvenile, playful and secretive and was used by Princess Diana.

Compulsive Smile

There are some people who smile a lot for no reason all the time displaying most of their teeth as they are thought of as being suspiciously happy, because they either know something you don’t or they are being fake with everyone to gain something out of it. This type of smile can be noticed by the lack of wrinkles around the eyes when they do. There are people who are constantly genuinely happy and even when they aren’t, they will still smile.

Teeth Display

Some people will widely open their mouths and simply display their upper teeth in hopes it appears they are laughing or are playful all the time, it usually works as it makes them appear happier, friendlier and therefore more likable amongst others and easier to approach.


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