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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Sara Smile

I recently heard that song by Daryl Hall and John Oates at a local bar performed by a local singer. That song, plus seeing so many patrons with masks on, reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few months back about mask use long term. As a former archaeologist, this is an excellent question about the continued evolution of the human species should viral threats such as covid-19 become a regular thing.

Take this picture of me (yes, that is me) while sitting outside Peete's Coffee enjoying a chocolate chip cookie and some sort of caffeine free iced tea, am I recognizable? I barely recognize myself. (I am supposed to wear hats when I am out in the middle of the day as per lupus.) The only part of my face visible are my eyes. Are they enough for identification? Beyond that, are they enough to identify a person's mood or emotions?

The answer is probably yes.

It's called a Duchenne Smile. Ever heard of it? Neither had I until I decided to look deeper into this subject. A Duchenne Smile, discovered by anatomist Guillaume Duchenne in the 19th Century while he was studying human facial muscles that control emotional expression, is when the zygomatic major muscles around the mouth flex enough in a smile to affect the orbicularis oculi muscles around the outside of the eyes causing those pesky crow's feet to activate. In simpler terms, when your eyes smile along with your lips. It is considered to be a "real" smile. For a long time, it was long believed to be unfakable. (Not really a word, but I am choosing to use it.) Turns out, it can be faked, but that is a good thing.

The Duchenne smile most often happens when a person is feeling genuine happiness or joy or other deep positive emotions. However, it has been discovered that a person who is feeling down or in a negative mood can help alleviate those negative feelings by faking it. A fake it till you make response can be good in such situations. It actually helps to stimulate the parts of the brain that help regulate mood.

Expressing a Duchenne smile to another person helps build connectedness. The person appears genuinely happier, probably is, and makes the receiver of the smile feel important and seen.

People with Duchenne smiles have also been found to be better at sales, able to earn higher tips, and are believed to be more trustworthy. In other words, they can help you get further in life financially.

It is my prediction that if masks become the norm long-term, and by long-term I mean many decades, recognizing a Duchenne smile involuntarily will become the new evolutionary norm of the human species because we won't be able to rely on the smile in the mouth alone.

My suggestion? Forget about protecting your face from the lines and wrinkles associated with crow's feet. Instead, get in front of that mirror and get practicing. That Duchenne Smile could become your most valuable social asset.

If you have a comment or question, or a blog idea, shoot me an email at

Thanks for reading!



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