Gender Differences in Smiling
For many years, gender and gender role differences have been extremely popular topics
of study in the psychological field. Everyone seems interested in knowing is there is any
truth to the popularized statement and book title, Women are from Venus, Men are from
Mars. Studies have found so many differences between men and women it leaves one
wondering in what areas are men and women alike. One nonverbal signal that appears
universal for men and women is smiling, but research shows that there are gender
differences within that behavior.
Kraut and Johnston (1999) define a smile as the major component of a facial display
associated with and caused by feelings of happiness or joy. Deutsch, LeBaron and Fryer
(1987) found that people who smile more often are viewed as carefree, warm, happy,
relaxed and polite. Mackey (1976) stated that a smile is a social signal that offers
reassurance, non-hostility or appeasement. Clearly researchers agree that a smile is
associated with positive feelings and emotions, so what is the difference between men and
women displaying this signal?
Halberstadt, Hayes and Pike (1988) offered the explanation that women smile more
than men because smiling is an important part of the nurturing, expressive role that is
socially appropriate for women to exhibit. They observed gender differences in smiling
during communication in a laboratory setting. They hypothesized that women would
smile more often than men during conversation. They found a significant difference
between the number of smiles per minute by women (mean = 3.93) and men (mean =
Deutsch, LeBaron and Fryer (1987) conducted a study in which participants rated
pictures of smiling and non-smiling men and women on their perceived personalities. As
expected, they found that smiling people were rated as more happy, more polite and
warmer than non-smiling people. They also found that non-smiling women were rated
harsher and as more unfriendly that non-smiling men. The results support previous studies
that suggest that women are socially expected to smile more than men and are viewed
more unfavorably if they do not exhibit the behavior.
Briton and Hall (1995) studied the differences between men and women and found that
men are typically believed to be more aggressive, noisy and dominant whereas women are
believed to be more gentle, emotional and sensitive to others needs. These perceptions are
accompanied by expected nonverbal behavior. Men are expected to fold their arms, make
occasional eye contact and dominate the conversation. Women are expected to touch,
smile, lean forward and be more submissive during conversations.
Most research studying gender differences in smiling have found similar results, that
women smile more often during verbal interaction than men. Other studies indicate that
this difference may occur because of the social...