Much More Than Duchenne In Real Smiles
Christopher Philip

Research led by Eva Krumhuber sheds some doubt on the both the lack of ability to fake a true Duchenne smile, as well as other people’s ability to read it.

It turns out that the statistics touting that 80% of us can not fake a true Duchenne smile might be more than a little misleading.

A Duchenne smile is characterized by an upturned mouth coupled with its most important feature – crinkles at the corners of the eyes. The smile is so named because researcher Duchenne evoked the smiles with the help of electric shock and like most people who try to fake eye crinkling, we tend to produce a pain face rather than one expressing true happiness.

Further, it had been suggested previously that most people can not consciously control the muscles that produce crows feet, thus making a fake smile easy to detect.

According to the current study, however, when people were told to fake a smile they could do so with success 83% of the time. That is, they were able to fool others into believing their fake smile was real – but only in photographs.

When subjects were shown the same fake smiles in video, they were much more able to detect the false smiles from real ones, but they didn’t rely on detecting eye crinkles.

Instead, when subjects were shown videos they relied more on the dynamic processes including how long people held the smile, the smile’s symmetry, and whether a person displayed conflicting emotions in other parts of their face.

Thus, while eye crinkling may indeed be difficult to fake, it’s not what most people use to detect false smile, but rather the face in its entirety.


Krumhuber, Eva G.; Manstead and Antony S. R. Can Duchenne smiles be feigned? New evidence on felt and false smiles. Emotion. 2009. 9 (6): 807-820.