People really feel that smiles get things done! Research shows that we smile more during interviews, we smile more when trying to gain approval from others, we smile when we feel someone will be disapproving of us and we smile more at our bosses. But what does all this extra smiling accomplish? Well, the science tells us that it really does help us win friends and influence people. When we smile we are more likely to be rated more honest and trustworthy and we can get out of possible wrongdoings more readily and with less negative consequences. Smiling therefore, helps us get out harsh punishments and so smiles generate leniency. Scientists call this the ‘smile-leniency effect’.
In a study by Joseph Forgas of the University of New South Wales in Australia it was found that smiling reduced punishment, especially on minor issues. In the experiment, over two-hundred individuals were asked to judge people based on a still photograph alone, by writing a description of their transgression. The photographs either had positive smiling faces or neutral faces. The smiling faces where less likely to be held responsible for the transgression and were evaluated more positively. There are a few theories as to why this is so. Smiles show that we are submissive, which indicates to others that we understand our wrongdoings. This makes severe punishment less necessary. Smiles make us more likeable and attractive, making it harder for other to punish us. Smiling also makes us appear more trustworthy and shows we are more sociable and diplomatic. The exact reason to explain smile-lenience might include all or none of these factors, but the results for smiling is universal; if you don’t want to receive the punishment for the crime, put on a big smile and you might just get off easy.