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February 23, 2013

Asymmetrical Smile but not Scorn

Sad or Happy? Or Both?
There are over 43 kinds of smiles, each conveying a different message. You might know few of them but sometime two facial expression of a specific emotion or feeling gets intermixed with another one thus creating confusion or distortion while interpreting overall nonverbal age.

We blindly label an intermixed emotional facial expression or gesture but never try to investigate what the exact message it conveys in the first place. We all commit such kind of attribution errors with many emotional facial expressions and gestures.

Just like me, before doing a detailed analysis, you might have observed an asymmetrical smile on somebody's face and misinterpreted as an expression of Contempt. I've been observing a different kind of smile (or a facial expression) since more than three years in surrounding social environments, photographs, movies, TV Serials and commercials as well.

Scorn or Contempt
It caught my attention and I started doing a research about the same. It's an asymmetrical smile but its conveys different emotional message if we consider the whole cluster i. e. a stimulus, accompanying facial expressions, para linguistics and verbal statements made by individuals.

Unlike the facial expression of Contempt in which lips tightly pressed together and both or either side of them is turned slightly upward and pinched deeply inside cheek, this kind of smile adapt different muscular movement or configuration.

While giving this kind of smile, lips are separated from each other and Orbicular Oris muscles (that surround our lips) are pulled upwards on either sides of the face. Along with the same, eyebrows are raised sometimes.

Asymmetrical Smile
I call it as a smile of surprise because an individual conveys uncertainty or state of under-confidence about what is being said or heard at the given moment. It's something like the person would utter or mumble, "Is it really so?".

What exactly do you think after looking at Cristiano Ronaldo's photo taken with his then partner and Russian model Irina Shayk? Is he really expressing contempt towards her or the individual who caught them in camera, mostly by surprise?

Cristiano Ronaldo has opened his mouth asymmetrically and has put up a smile in response to an unexpected or sudden photo-shoot by carried out, most likely by the paparazzi. On the other hand, Irina Shayk, being a Russian model and television personality, is appearing confident and in-control of the situation.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portuguese footballer) with Irina Shayk
(Image Courtesy:

It clearly appears that Cristiano wasn't expecting anybody to capture both of them without any prior notice but still his partner faced the camera as if she didn't have any issue as she does the same routinely, skillfully and professionally.

In body language, an assymetrical smile is mostly confused with scorn. That's why this article was written to explain the difference between both.

Related Articles:
1) Why we smile? 2) Genuine Smile 3) Observation is the key 4) Baseline 5) The couple in trouble?