In many cultures, smiling is perceived differently. One of the broader differences lies between western cultures, which are largely considered “smiling cultures,” versus non-smiling cultures, such as Asian and Eastern-European cultures. The article “Do only fools smile at strangers?” by Krys, Hansen, Xing, Szarota, and Yang “seeks to analyze social perceptions of the intelligence of smiling people in different countries. The researchers performed an experiment by offering pictures of smiling and non-smiling individuals to participants of various cultures and recorded their answers. As expected, those cultures where smiling was prevalent rated other smiling people higher on the intelligence scale when compared to non-smiling nations such as China. The broader psychosocial aspects addressed in this study are the domains of social relations and social history.
Social comparison theory is at work here. People tend to think of themselves as smart. Therefore, they associate cultural similarities (such as smiling) with mental acuity. Another important factor to play into the perceptions of smiling is related to the connection between smiling and various mental diseases. Zimbardo, Maslach, and Haney connect certain appearances and actions with role compliance. In this scenario, a person who smiles excessively, in the mind of the beholder, validates the stereotypes associated with the role of a fool, which results in the negative appraisal of one’s intelligence. One of the lessons learned from Ross that can be applied to the analysis of this article is that cultural perspective is very important when analyzing roles and models utilized in particular nations, as perceptions of such may differ based on cultural and historical perspectives that societies have developed over time.