Can I spot fake smiles?

Smiles popped into my head today. This paragraph (refs omitted):

Autism and Asperger syndrome are diagnosable developmental disorders, but autistic-like personality traits are continuously distributed in the non-clinical population. They are higher in males, in scientists (especially in the hard sciences and engineering) and in relatives of autistic-spectrum patients. Thus, individual differences in autistic-like traits may contribute to explain individual differences in smile recognition skills; people high in autistic-like traits may show reduced visual attention to the eyes, which in turn would limit their ability to detect felt enjoyment smiles. Consistent with this hypothesis, a study of face processing in subjects high in autistic-like traits showed that they made fewer fixations in the eye region compared to controls while looking at face pictures.

makes me wonder whether perhaps one version of the story is “I saw you smiling – WTF?” and “I was faking my happiness” and “I didn’t know they were fakes. (And who does that, anyways?)”

Anyhow, that spilled milk curdled a long time ago. The only thing that matters is what’s next. Here’s a usable online test for Duchenne smile discrimination. Can anyone point me to one that’s longer or more authoritative? What about a self-paced tutorial to improve recognition — does one exist? Is it possible? If my son can distinguish gross emotions, how will we teach him to recognize genuine smiles from the fakes?

Moving further along, does being an optimist inversely correlate with recognizing smiles? Do poor discriminators nevertheless identify other cues that lead to stress or other negative feelings that discriminators can consciously mediate? Yes, when I get to the point that I can whip out these sorts of tests in modifiable customizable webapp form, I’ll add this to the list.



  1. rickcolosimo on June 6, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Then again, 16 out of 20 correct. That’s not helpful without knowing some more data. C’mon BBC, help us out here.

    10/20 is chance, right, since there were 10 of each, which was not clear going in and which I didn’t assume or track.

  2. rickcolosimo on July 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    Maybe the optimist/pessimist vs. smile discrimination is a test that can be done on Amazon Mechanical Turk.