Be Careful Where You Smile: Culture Shapes Judgments of Intelligence and Honesty of Smiling Individuals

Kuba Krys*, C.-Melanie Vauclair, Colin A. Capaldi, Vivian Miu-Chi Lun, Michael Harris Bond, Alejandra Domínguez-Espinosa, Claudio Torres, Ottmar V. Lipp, L. Sam S. Manickam, Cai Xing, Radka Antalíková, Vassilis Pavlopoulos, Julien Teyssier, Taekyun Hur, Karolina Hansen, Piotr Szarota, Ramadan A. Ahmed, Eleonora Burtceva, Ana Chkhaidze, Enila CenkoPatrick Denoux, Márta Fülöp, Arif Hassan, David O. Igbokwe, İdil Işık, Gwatirera Javangwe, María Malbran, Fridanna Maricchiolo, Hera Mikarsa, Lynden K. Miles, Martin Nader, Joonha Park, Muhammad Rizwan, Radwa Salem, Beate Schwarz, Irfana Shah, Chien-Ru Sun, Wijnand van Tilburg, Wolfgang Wagner, Ryan Wise, Angela Arriola Yu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-116
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Issue number2
Early online date30 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

Bibliographical note

We thank all the supporting team-members involved in the translation procedures and data collections. Research was supported by the Polish NCN Grant 2011/03/N/HS6/05112 (K.K.) and Chinese NNSF Grant 31200788 (C.X).


  • Corruption
  • Culture
  • Honesty
  • Intelligence
  • Smile
  • Uncertainty avoidance


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