Can You Spot a Smile Behind a Face Mask? Expert Weighs In

June 8, 2020

    It's hard to read someone's facial expressions when half of their face is covered with a mask. With so many people walking around with masks on, the world seems a lot less friendly.

    That said, a body language expert says it's totally possible to still spot a grin on the face of a stranger despite their face coverings.

    Janine Driver, founder and president of The Body Language Institute in Washington, D.C., says much of the information doesn't come from the bottom halves of our faces at all.

    "We're lucky a lot of information shows up in the eyes and the eyebrows," she said.

    "With true happiness, we see it with the wrinkles on the side of our eyes," she explains.

    A genuine smile, apparently, engages more muscles in our face than just the ones around our mouths, making it easy to detect a friendly face even with half of their face covered.

    Psychologist Paul Ekman says the "true enjoyment smile" shows up in the crow's feet or laugh lines area of the face, with the eyes narrowing during a real, genuine smile.

    Looking at someone's eyes isn't the only way to detect a smile. You can also hear enjoyment in someone's voice as well, because a smile will change the shape of your mouth when you talk.

    Since wearing a mask can be intimidating to strangers, it's important to keep your social cues in tact and still appear as friendly as possible while walking the streets amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    One way to do this is to ditch the sunglasses, so that people can actually see your smiling eyes. You can also use better body language signals by not crossing your arms, and being mindful of your wandering eyebrows. A furrowed brow can send the wrong signal.

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