Influence & Body Language

3 Easy Ways To Spot Genuine & Fake Smiles

George Clooney genuine smile

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.


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  • The first one is an obvious fake smile but the seconde one is a sincere smile.

    1.The woman doens’t have any crow’s feet, her bottom teeth are visible and her eyes aren’t closed.

    2;The man does have crow’s feet, only his top teeth are seen, and his eyes are closed.

  • top one so obviously fake. the bottom one is real because he has huge crow’s feet. Crow’s feet dead giveaway it’s a real genuine. speaking from experience.

  • I disagree with the article basically implying
    that you have to close your eyes to have a sincere smile
    and I disagree because
    well frankly I never close my eyes when I smile.
    I may smile some because I am not totally happy,yet kinda happy.
    That is rational and reasonable.
    He needs to learn that everyone has bad days and quit misinterpreting people.

    • The article isn’t about bad days and good days. If you study facial expressions, many expressions are universal and are involuntary muscular reactions to psychological reactions. And research wise (for decades I might add) and scientifically, a Duchenne(sp?)(I can’t remember how to spell it anymore, Haha,I only read this article to recall the name) smile is the most universally relevant smile. As it is an involuntary muscular reaction to mood and psychological reactions.

  • usually the tone of someones voice and the words said give me a better understanding than looking at thier crows feet or lower lip lol…who are you trying to be dude lol… i dont get it…. peace

    • @life

      You might think that in reality the vast majority of your perception (yes, YOUR perception, unless you are an alien or my cat or something) of peoples’ emotions come from mostly subconscious interpretations of body language, to the tune of something like 70%. What this article is attempting to do (and by extension, who its author is “trying to be,” I guess) is provide a rational, cogent explanation to foster an understanding of a base-level human social process.

      Also, for shits and giggles, what if that middle aged lady just received a botox injection a couple days prior to that photograph? James’ smile may give all the outward impressions of verisimilitude, but there’s a reason he’s an actor. If he’s not able to portray a genuine looking smile at will, he may be “faking” or forcing the emotion beneath it.

      People are strange and varied creatures.

  • The indicators are not reliable. Many males have visible crow’s feet while some dont. At my age, I don’t have any crow’s feet at all. While smiling is different from laughing or giggling.

      • Wait what’s your email? I’m doing a science fair project about this and it’s says that I need your contact information as in email and I need it by today because my project is due tmr

  • I can easily fake a genuine smile with my eyes closed looking with the wrinkle thing showing and m bottom teeth not showing. I just am good at these things I don’t know why I can also lie well I hate these skill/traits I have because I fake smile un consciously its a habit to fake smile now.

  • I have known about closing your eyes when smiling because of my mom. Her eyes totally disappear when she smiles genuinely and so it is really easy to spot a fake smile on her. However, I will have to work on my fake smile. Now that I know what it looks like I can fake it better. I also think that you missed one of the fake smiles. I call it the I forgot to brush smile when someone refuses to smile with their teeth. I do it when I have forgotten to brush my teeth and am self concious about it.

    • I never smile with my teeth, even when it’s genuine. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a 100% genuine smile, I don’t think. At least 1% is fake. Plus, my teeth are crooked and yellow. I don’t have crows feet when I smile.

      • When a smile is genuine you do not think about it. I guess the reason you don’t have a 100% genuine smile, is because you’re self-conscious about it, i.e. think about you’re smiles (maybe because of your teeth).

  • It’s a lot easier than “three ways.” You only need one clue. The smile. It’s always fake. Always. No exceptions. There’s no such thing as a real smile. Period. Case closed. You’re all faking it. This “real vs. fake smile” scam is a false dichotomy to distract people from finding out they’re not the only one who thinks smiling is creepy, awkward, very difficult, and sometimes painful.

    Smiling is a classic case of pluralistic ignorance. You only even try to do it because you believe you’re the only one who knows it’s complete bullshit.

  • first is fake second is real bcoz u can see by the girls eyes and the eyes for the second man are different the girl smiled bcoz she is possing for a photo

  • you mistake laugh with smile,I remember being really happy and in the mood and taking a pic and my eyes were open,not wide open but open,smile was very genuine

  • Lol both are fake. In the first picture her smile is so forced it looks like a grimace and in the second one he looks like a ‘Mr Right’ …. their crows feet have nothing to do with it. If people who are faking their smiles don’t want to be seen through, they can just squint their eyes. You have to be able to see the emotion IN their eyes, not around them. It’s not as easy as ‘three steps to knowing the secret’. When people genuinely smile, there is a kind of light in their eyes that make their entire face brighten.. Here are examples of fake and genuine smiles:–C3g&ust=1472170794774637 (fake),d.dGo&psig=AFQjCNH7RcGEjV42U4mvVuu1OV8cvcjOxg&ust=1472171123084590
    See the way her eyes shine?

  • first fake second real
    smiling can make us feel us happy and others too
    SO NEVER POST A NEGATIVE COMMENT ON SMILING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    if you do so you do so you will have a frown on your face for a day

  • Very nice and useful content.
    I would recommend it to my friends.

    And person in second picture expressing a genuine smile.

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