Be Careful Where You Smile: Culture Shapes Judgments of Intelligence and Honesty of Smiling Individuals
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Smiling individuals are usually perceived more favorably than non-smiling ones—they are judged as happier, more attractive, competent, and friendly. These seemingly clear and obvious consequences of smiling are assumed to be culturally universal, however most of the psychological research is carried out in WEIRD societies (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) and the influence of culture on social perception of nonverbal behavior is still understudied. Here we show that a smiling individual may be judged as less intelligent than the same non-smiling individual in cultures low on the GLOBE’s uncertainty avoidance dimension. Furthermore, we show that corruption at the societal level may undermine the prosocial perception of smiling—in societies with high corruption indicators, trust toward smiling individuals is reduced. This research fosters understanding of the cultural framework surrounding nonverbal communication processes and reveals that in some cultures smiling may lead to negative attributions.
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