Scientific Portal on Body Language, Kinesics, and Nonverbal Communication#

Asymmetrical Smile but not Contempt

Sad or Happy?
There are over 40 kinds of smiles, each conveying a different message unconsciously. You might know few of them but sometimes a facial expression or configuration related to a specific emotion or feeling gets intermixed with another thus creating confusion or distortion while interpreting overall nonverbal message being conveyed by the other person. We blindly label an intermixed expression or gesture but never investigate what true message it conveys.

Just like me, before doing a detail 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 a surrounding social environment, photographs, movies, TV Serials and commercials.

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

Unlike facial expression of Contempt - lips tightly pressed together and both or either side of them turned slightly upward and pinched deeply inside cheek, this kind of smile adopt different muscular movement or configuration. Lips are separated from each other and Orbicular Oris muscles (that surrounds the lips) are pulled upwards on either side of the face. Eyes are widely spread and eyebrows are raised sometimes.

Asymmetrical Smile
I call it as a smile of surprise or shock because an individual conveys uncertainty or state of under-confidence about what is being watched, done, said or heard at the given moment. It's something like person would utter or mumble, "Is it really so?". You can clearly watch the difference between facial expressions of the man wearing a blue shirt and the woman appearing in the background.

The man has opened lips asymmetrically in response to an unexpected, shocking or frightening news - information being provided by the person seating in front of him. You can watch an individual doing same, not with exaggerated lip opening exactly like this humorous male character, when it received any clues that are not expected at the given moment.

Still image from a famous comedy TV Serial - Seinfeld
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  1. An asymetrical smile can also express CYNICISM.

  2. I can confirmed a mutual observation of an asymmetrical twitch similar to contempt which conveys affection.


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