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B. The Art of the Deceptive Smile

Narrator: This is Science Today. We all know the feeling. The conversation lulls, leaving a heavy, uncomfortable silence. You flash a smile across the table and get a nervous grin in response. But what do those upturned corners really mean? Doctor Paul Ekman, a psychology professor at the University of California San Francisco says they are one of several "deceptive" smiles that humans constantly deploy.

Ekman: The false smile is made to deliberately mislead another person to make them think that you're enjoying yourself when in fact your not.

Narrator: Ekman says deceptive smiles are used to hide our true feelings, and are difficult to distinguish from genuine smiles of enjoyment.

Ekman: Most of us are really not able to tell whether someone is lying to us or not, even if it's a very serious lie, and I believe most of don't really want to know anyhow. And besides which, who wants to go through life being suspicious all of the time about whether someone is misleading us?

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.