Smiling is the best way to face every problem, to crush every fear, to hide every pain. – Unknown author

Often times, people smile when they don’t really feel like it. They do so during job interviews, dinner parties, and every such public occasion in order to look more approachable. They “fake smile” it.

In fact, many people have had to go through whole ceremonies smiling, just to look good, when in fact they are not enjoying a thing (a swimsuit photo shoot in cold weather comes to mind).

The truth is that smiling is very important. It makes you look better, friendlier and more accessible. But did you know that any keen person can spot a fake smile?

It’s very true.

You probably don’t give it much thought, but you can spot a fake smile almost sub-consciously. But to catch a fake smile, you must be able to spot a genuine one as well.

Genuine Smiles

When you smile and you mean it, there are two kinds of muscles that are involved in your face. This was first recognized by French physician Guillaume Duchenne.

George Clooney genuine smile

In this pic of George Clooney, he displays a genuine smile. Notice how his eyes are almost closed, as well as the crow’s feet outside the eyes.

In genuine or “Duchenne” smiles, one type of muscle is responsible for enlarging your cheeks and exposing the teeth (the zygomatic major muscle). This muscle is controlled voluntarily by a person. When we say “smile to the camera”, we do so, effortlessly.

There are, however, other muscles involved in real smiles that are often forgotten by a person wanting to appear happy.

In a Duchenne smile, the orbicularis oculi muscle contracts and forms wrinkles on the outer edge of your eyes (also dubbed crow’s feet). Basically, the eyes close up as the cheeks move upwards.

Why We Fake Smile

Your eyes betray your feelings a lot.

There are many situations where we fake smile. We all do it.

Sometimes it’s when someone tells a joke and we don’t feel it’s that funny, but we crack a smile. Sometimes it’s because a friend is taking a picture of us. Other times it’s because we meet a person and want to make a good impression.

In none of these situations are we smiling genuinely.

People also know that they can smile when they want to hide their emotions. In that sense, knowing when a person is genuinely happy to see you can influence how you deal with a coworker, a client or a business partner.

How to Spot a Fake Smile – 3 Tips

When trying to spot a fake smile, there are three things you can look that will give the “culprit” away.

1. Absence of Closed Eyes

As stated before, one of the key ingredient in a genuine smile is the movement of the orbicularis oculi muscle. This causes the eyes to close. The vast majority of people that fake smile will show no movements in the upper face area.

Real smile

Even with his mouth covered, it is easy to tell that comedian Dany Turcotte is smiling.

Take a close look at the picture of the man to the right.

In fact, cover his mouth with your own hand.

Can you tell that he’s smiling?

Sure you can.

So in the absence of movement in the eyes area, especially if they don’t close, you should suspect the person is not faking it.

2. Absence of Crow’s Feet

This is a secondary tell related to the closing of the eyes. For many people, crow’s feet appear outside the eyes when they smile honestly.

Take a good look again at Dany Turcotte and George Clooney’s pictures, you can clearly see the wrinkles outside the edge of the eyes.

3. Visible Bottom Teeth

Another way you can see if a person is fake smiling is if you can see the bottom teeth in her mouth. Again look at George Clooney’s mouth, the bottom teeth are totally absent. This is because when you smile and you mean it, the mouth muscle, the zygomatic major moves upwards.

When we fake smile, we have a tendency to move this muscle outwards, sometimes exposing the bottom teeth. That’s why it’s not a good idea to say “cheeeeeeese” when we take pictures. The word “cheese” moves forces a fake smile. it’s much better to find a way to make people laugh for real.

Fake Smile

Look for these 3 indicators of a fake smile: Eyes are not closed, no crow’s feet, visible bottom teeth.

This is not universal though. Many people don’t show their bottom teeth even if they fake smile. Moreover, some people have large mouth and will expose their teeth even when they smile genuinely. So take this one with caution.

As a recap, look at the man to the right. Can you see that this smile is fake?

The is no action in the eyes, they are not closed and there is no crow’s feet, and we can see the bottom teeth:

Conclusion: FAKE SMILE!

Although smiling is very important in communication, it is also important that you try to be sincere whenever you smile. Sometimes when you are not pleased, you don’t have to fake a smile. It is just as important that people know what you feel.

Quick test:

Here are two images of genuine and fake smiles, tell me in the comments which one is real, and which one is fake, and why.


DISCLOSURE: Some products and services promoted on this website are affiliate links. This means if you decide to buy one of these products, I will earn a small commission. By using these links, there's no additional cost to you. You get the same great resource at the same great price. I only promote resources, products and services I truly believe will provide you with incredible value. By earning a commission, it helps me produce more quality content. Plus it even helps feed my children! 🙂