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  4. The role of culture in perception and interpretation of smiles

【令和3年度 一般公募プロジェクト】The role of culture in perception and interpretation of smiles

研究課題      The role of culture in perception and interpretation of smiles

研究代表者     SZAROTA Piotr Rafał Institute of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw Associate Professor

本センター担当教員 上田祥行        京都大学こころの未来研究センター 特定講師

According to the SIMS model (Niedenthal et al., 2010) there are three distinct classes of smiles: reward smile is the display of amusement or happiness, affiliative smile expresses positive social motives, and finally, dominance smiles serve to communicate higher social status or control. The authors presented empirical evidence that these functionally distinct expressions also elicit different physiological responses. However, as Niedenthal et al. (2010) have explicitly stated: “The SIMS model has been largely developed using data collected in Western countries”.

A main assumption that guides this research project is that cultures differ significantly in the way the facial expressions are perceived and decoded. Some researchers emphasize the cross-cultural variations in the role of the mouth and eyes in smiles. Generally, in Western cultures mouth is crucial in the identification of the facial expression, while in East Asia the focus is on the eyes region. Moreover, there are significant differences in social values between individualistic and collectivistic cultures, which may also affect the evaluation of certain facial displays. While individualistic cultures foster rationality and interpersonal exchange, collectivistic cultures encourage relatedness and communal relationships. As Covas-Smith et al. (2010) noted: “The dominance smile […] may never developed as a display of pride in a culture that values equality over individual achievement”.