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Human Smiles: Expression of Emotion or Communication Gesture?
Unformatted Document Text:  Kurylo & Frank Smiles and Communication 2 Human Smiles: Expression of Emotion or Communication Gesture? Our daily interactions suggest that the smile in one of the most common facial expressions displayed by human beings (Bugental, 1986). Despite this frequency of occurrence, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the smile, particularly concerning whether it is a universal-biological expression of the felt emotion of enjoyment or a voluntarily produced communicative signal enacted for cultural significance independent of experienced emotion. Support for Culture Specific Expressions of Emotion Several researchers have taken a cultural-relativist approach to the study of emotion and expression (e.g., Birdwhistell, 1970; Fridlund, 1991; Klineberg, 1940/ 1955; Kraut & Johnston, 1979; Landis, 1924; LeBarre, 1947; Planalp, 1999; Russell, 1994). This perspective sees nonverbal as predominantly symbolic communication – chosen based upon learning and determined by the culture in which it is used, rather than as a reflection of felt emotion. Research supporting this position has shown that certain facial expressions of emotion, in particular the smile, occur in the absence of any related emotion trigger, and that they can occur both when the expression is appropriate as well as when an opposite emotion should be expected (e.g., the presence of smiling in both pleasant and unpleasant circumstances; Landis, 1924). Moreover, people smile more often when in social situations than when alone, suggesting the presence of people, and not necessarily a felt emotion, is the driving force in expressing a smile (Fridlund, 1991; Fridlund, Sabini, Hedlund, Schaut, Shenker, & Knauer, 1990; Kraut & Johnston, 1979).

Authors: Kurylo, Anastacia. and Frank, Mark.
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Kurylo & Frank
Smiles and Communication
2
Human Smiles: Expression of Emotion or Communication Gesture?
Our daily interactions suggest that the smile in one of the most common facial
expressions displayed by human beings (Bugental, 1986). Despite this frequency of
occurrence, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the smile, particularly
concerning whether it is a universal-biological expression of the felt emotion of
enjoyment or a voluntarily produced communicative signal enacted for cultural
significance independent of experienced emotion.
Support for Culture Specific Expressions of Emotion
Several researchers have taken a cultural-relativist approach to the study of
emotion and expression (e.g., Birdwhistell, 1970; Fridlund, 1991; Klineberg, 1940/ 1955;
Kraut & Johnston, 1979; Landis, 1924; LeBarre, 1947; Planalp, 1999; Russell, 1994).
This perspective sees nonverbal as predominantly symbolic communication – chosen
based upon learning and determined by the culture in which it is used, rather than as a
reflection of felt emotion. Research supporting this position has shown that certain facial
expressions of emotion, in particular the smile, occur in the absence of any related
emotion trigger, and that they can occur both when the expression is appropriate as well
as when an opposite emotion should be expected (e.g., the presence of smiling in both
pleasant and unpleasant circumstances; Landis, 1924). Moreover, people smile more
often when in social situations than when alone, suggesting the presence of people, and
not necessarily a felt emotion, is the driving force in expressing a smile (Fridlund, 1991;
Fridlund, Sabini, Hedlund, Schaut, Shenker, & Knauer, 1990; Kraut & Johnston, 1979).


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