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Smile Wrinkles

Is that just a polite smile? Did he really like my joke? There’s a way for you to tell.

It’s called the Duchenne smile.


Named after the scientist who first suggested it, the Duchenne smile reflects true enjoyment. A Duchenne smile is defined by crow’s feet appearing around the eyes.

Duchenne smile crow's feet wrinkles
That’s right, those little wrinkles you get around your eyes when you smile are the true sign that you’re having a good time. Polite smiles, like you might see in high school yearbooks or awkward dates, usually involve just the mouth area.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with non-Duchenne smiles, which only include raised lip corners. In most cases, being polite is a good thing. But without eye crinkling, you can’t be sure that they’re actually pleased, amused, or happy.


The most obvious use of this info is to be on guard for crow’s feet at all times. Well, maybe just during job interviews, negotiations, or other evaluative social interactions.

You can even make a game of it by trying to count the number of times you see genuine Duchenne smiles versus non-Duchenne smiles during a single interaction–If you’re a psychology nerd like me, at least.

Remember don’t get paranoid if crow’s feet don’t make an appearance. Just realize the positive effect you’re having when that eye crinkling does show up.


The Duchenne smile: Emotional expression and brain physiology: II. (1990). Ekman, P, Davidson, RJ, Friesen, WV Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 342-353.

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