10 Types Of Smiles & What They Mean

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woman smiling

Smiles light up everyone's face when you let one grace your face, but did you know there are different types of smiles?

We all have our favorite smiles and we love watching our significant other's face bloom with beauty when they smile, but not all smiles are created equal. 

In fact, different smiles have different meanings, and you can learn a lot about a person and what they're thinking once you're able to read the body language of smiles.

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Here are 10 types of smiles and what they mean.

I hope you gain some great insights so that you can understand your other's facial expressions a little better in the future.

1. Smiles from rewards.

These smiles come from positive affirmations, such as approval which is a reward for a specific action, leading to positive reinforcement of the behavior.

When someone smiles, the brain releases the hormone dopamine, which makes us feel good as a response. This increases people’s happiness.

2. Duchenne smile.

This smile is of pure happiness. The Duchenne smile uses the whole mouth, cheeks, and eyes to give off a stunning beauty as your face lights up. 

This smile makes you appear to be friendly, trustworthy, and authentic. 

A 2009 study found that the people who have Duchenne smiles in their high school yearbook grew up to have a happier life. Another study revealed that those with this authentic smile tend to live longer.

3. Smiles of affiliation.

These smiles are a way for us as humans to be polite, to reassure others, and to communicate our good intentions. We also use affiliation smiles to convey compassion towards someone struggling. We use these smiles to let others know that they can trust us and we belong at that specific place.

Research suggests that smiles of affiliation that come with a lip pressor (where we smile without opening our mouths and hide our teeth) are a way we have evolved away from baring our teeth as a sign of aggression. It makes us less threatening.

4. Smiles of flirtation. 

A big part of attraction is a person’s smile. Studies have found that smiling makes people more attractive. In fact, according to a 2013 study, simply smiling "could even compensate for relative unattractiveness."

5. Smiles of politeness.

We use polite smiles when we meet someone for the first time, when we are about to give bad news. When we give polite smiles, our mouths may convey but our eyes don’t. These types of smiles keep everyone in their own space.

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6. Smiles of dominance.

These smiles are a bit more like a sneer or a smirk where someone knows they are superior over someone else and they enjoy making people feel inferior.

These types of smiles are asymmetrical, where one side of the mouth stays where it is and the other side raises up. This display of dominance may even come with a lip curl. A dominant person may even raise an eyebrow as a sign of distress, anger, questioning, or disgust.

A study found that this type of smile is also known to increase cortisol and heart rate in the body of those on the receiving end of it, revealing that a dominant smile is a nonverbal threat that causes the recipient's body to react in a way of self-preservation.

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7. Smiles of wistfulness.

This is when someone is able to smile and laugh during terribly sad times, like the death of a loved one.

Scientists also believe that we smile when we are in pain because our bodies try to overcome such problems in society. Interestingly, when we are alone, we let ourselves truly feel the emotions we are having. But when we have loved ones around, then it is easier to paste on a small smile, even if they are not happy to make their family members feel better.

8. Smiles of embarrassment.

When someone is embarrassed, they can develop emotional bruises. In 1995, researchers found that “a smile provoked by embarrassment is often accompanied by a downward tilt of the head and a shifting of the gaze to the left.”

Embarrassed people will touch their faces a lot and they usually use head movements to confirm different things and it allows them the ability to communicate when they don’t want to talk. 

9. Fake or forced smiles.

When you aren't in the mood to smile, you may crack a fake smile when forced to. This type of smile is soulless.

10. The open mouth smile.

When you give an open mouth smile, you are probably making some awesome selfies or pictures. These smiles show you radiating with happiness that you can't keep bottled up inside.

RELATED: 8 Guys Reveal What They Notice Most About You When You Smile

Emily Francos is a writer who covers relationships, pop culture, and news topics.

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