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February 23, 2013

Asymmetrical Smile but not Contempt

Sad or Happy? Or Both?
There are over 40 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.

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 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 same. It's an asymmetrical smile but its conveys different emotional message if we consider its cluster - a stimulus, accompanying facial expressions, para linguistics and verbal statements made by individuals.

Unlike 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.

Lips are separated from each other and Orbicular Oris muscles (that surround our lips) are pulled upwards on either sides of the face. 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 person would utter or mumble, "Is it really so?". 

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

Cristiano has opened lips asymmetrically in response to an unexpected or sudden photo-shoot whereas Irina, being as a model, appears confident and in-control. 

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 same routinely and professionally.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portuguese footballer with Irina Shayk
(Image Courtesy:

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  1. An asymetrical smile can also express CYNICISM.

    1. isn't cynicism and contempt related? Someone could be cynical as a "contempt" toward someone. Thinking less of the subject of the cynism.

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


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