It’s true- a smile engages a person, it’s a social lubricant that can make daily interactions more pleasant, can signal a friend or appreciation of a joke. With our typical Covid19 masks now covering our mouths and noses, how does this work?
Health care workers (HCWs) were acutely aware of the ‘dehumanizing’ effect of masks + goggles + face shields. Savvy HCWs pasted large photos of their own smiling faces on their gowns, to rebuild that human connection with their patients.
Photo credit: @derekdevault
From American Hospital Association (https://www.aha.org/other-resources/2020-04-20-health-care-workers-ppe-wear-photos-themselves-smiling-comfort-patients) accessed 11 June 2020.
Others choose masks with permanent smiles:
But most of us are probably not going to adopt either of these trends. So how DO we connect when wearing a mask? How do you know if your friend or the server/sales associate/cashier is scowling behind that mask or actually being friendly?
It turns out, it’s the eyes. We all know how a warm genuine smile is seen in the eyes also- or, more accurately, the skin movement around the eyes. Those sometimes-hated wrinkles known as ‘crow’s feet’ can also be called ‘laugh lines’, since ‘squinching’ of this area occurs with a smile or a laugh.
In fact, muscle movement (and wrinkles) around the eyes are know to distinguish between real and polite smiles. (Ekman P, Friesen WV, O’Sullivan M, Smiles When Lying. J Pers Soc Psychol 1988; 54(3):414-420.) It is easy for most of us to voluntarily move the corners of our mouths upward into smiles- but it is much harder to on-purpose make smiley-wrinkles around the eyes.
So there you have it. The eyes don’t lie, even though (as Motown said) smiles sometimes do! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oLl8NLtels
Keep wearing masks, smiling, and spreading kindness.