Human biology studies; in all cases, emphasis added.
Across four studies, the current paper demonstrates that smiles are associated with lower social status. Moreover, the association between smiles and lower status appears in the psychology of observers and generalizes across two forms of status: prestige and dominance. In the first study, faces of fashion models representing less prestigious apparel brands were found to be more similar to a canonical smile display than the faces of models representing more prestigious apparel brands. In a second study, after being experimentally primed with either high or low prestige fashion narratives, participants in the low prestige condition were more likely to perceive smiles in a series of photographs depicting smiling and non-smiling faces. A third study of football player photographs revealed that the faces of less dominant (smaller) football players were more similar to the canonical smile display than the faces of their physically larger counterparts. Using the same football player photographs, a fourth study found that smiling was a more reliable indicator of perceived status-relevant personality traits than perceptions of the football players' physical sizes inferred from the photographs.
The smile is perhaps the most widely studied facial expression of emotion, and in this article we examine its status as a sign of physical dominance. We reason, on the basis of prior research, that prior to a physical confrontation, smiles are a nonverbal sign of reduced hostility and aggression, and thereby unintentionally communicate reduced physical dominance. Two studies provide evidence in support of this prediction: Study 1 found that professional fighters who smiled more in a prefight photograph taken facing their opponent performed more poorly during the fight in relation to their less intensely smiling counterparts. In Study 2, untrained observers judged a fighter as less hostile and aggressive, and thereby less physically dominant when the fighters' facial expression was manipulated to show a smiling expression in relation to the same fighter displaying a neutral expression. Discussion focused on the reasons why smiles are associated with decreased physical dominance.
One of the few good pieces of advice that the gamesters give to White men is to wipe that silly grin off your face, it’s a sign of weakness and appeasement, and, for godssakes, stop all those open-mouthed “surprise” smiles that make you look like you have more estrogen than a busload of 18 year old girls.