Cross Cultural Smiles

Cross Cultural Smiles

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But they never said what language those words are in. Turns out, that smiling photo of you on your social network or in a photo album can be interpreted in very different ways, depending on your culture and country. Dr. Jill Smith and the Dental Health and Wellness crew want to share this interesting cross cultural info with you — call it a change of perspective.

The Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, UK conducted a study to see how different cultures perceive facial expressions. In the study, 15 Caucasians and 15 people of Chinese descent, all residents of Glasgow, were shown a series of computer-generated faces. The faces were altered to suggest an expression. Then, the study participants were tasked with labeling each face as happy, sad, surprised, fearful, disgusted or angry.

The labeling led to some surprises. Many of the faces were similar, but there was a dramatic difference in what those of Chinese descent saw as angry and disgusted and what the Caucasians did.

Why? Well, there’s a cultural difference at play here. The Chinese looked at the eyes of the faces to determine the emotion, while the Caucasians judged based on the mouths. This idea of eyes versus lips seems to be a common one in East Asian cultures. Eyes are considered the more expressive part of the face, so that’s where they look to figure out how someone is feeling. In Western cultures, we check the mouth first — if we’re not sure, then we look to the eyes for more insight.

This expression difference even spreads to “emoticons”, the fun smiley faces we use in emails, text messages and instant message conversations.

Here are the typical smileys you’re probably familiar with:

:–)    :–(    😉    ;-P   :-/   :-O   😀

Now here are the smileys for those same emotions, used in countries like Korea and Japan:

^_^   T_T   ^_-   XD   -_-   O_O   ^o^

You can easily see what we’re talking about! The first set is all about the lips, with the eyes the exact same shape across almost all the emoticons. The second set frequently changes up the eye size and shape, with only a few variations in the lips.

Now you know how important a healthy smile can be! Many people have smiles they’re not so proud of. They tend to hide them in photos or in public, which now could come back to bite them (not literally). Your relations with East Asian visitors might sour if your concealed grin is perceived as a grimace. And important talks with visiting businessmen could be impacted if that self-conscious grin of approval comes across as a look of total disgust!

Dr. Jill Smith knows how important teeth are to a happy healthy lifestyle. That’s why Dental Health and Wellness Boston provides several corrective and cosmetic dentistry procedures. These include:

  1. Tooth Replacement servicesDental implants, Dental Bridges and Dentures are all right up our alley! We’ll fix those gaps and cracked teeth in a jiffy and leave you with a great grin.
  2. Teeth Whitening – We offer Kor and BriteSmile whitening!
  3. Reclaim your youthful smile with Age-Defying Dentalift and regain your confidence!
  4. And, If You Need More Advanced Dental Work Dr. Jill is part of an extensive network of dental physicians and will easily and happily recommend you to a very skilled specialist.


For more on corrective and cosmetic dental procedures:
Making Boston Healthier One Tooth at a Time
Tooth-Colored Fillings: The Natural Look
Cosmetic Dentistry for Men

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment