A blog-post on Social Intelligence – Observing Nonverbal Behavior and Understanding Emotions – by Dr. Sandeep Atre.

“You can only hold a smile for so long! After that, it’s just teeth”… Well said novelist Chuck Palahniuk!


In psychology, there is a term called ingratiator’s dilemma. It means that a person who is trying to please others has to continuously strike a balance between ‘creating positive impression’ and still avoiding ‘overdoing’ it. But it’s easier said than done, thus false smiles err on the feature of timing.

Timing of a smile involves three factors – onset, duration and offset. Genuine smiles come and leave at leisurely pace while being relatively ‘brief and repetitive’. Yes! As Marianne LaFrance says, real happiness gets shown in ‘sequence of short smiles’- running into each other like puppies chasing a ball.

Conversely, deliberate smiles arrive and depart quickly, and stay at maximum intensity for longer. In fact, unless it is part of a chuckle, in a fan-moment, or on a saint’s face, spontaneous smile is ‘0.5 to 4 seconds’ in duration. If it stays on peak for longer then, as Frank & Ekman say, it’s not natural.


So, ‘All good things must come to an end’ – is the fourth pointer regarding genuineness of smiles. More in my coming blog-posts… :-)

PS: All inputs on observing nonverbal behavior should be applied after establishing the baseline behavior.

Dr. Sandeep Atre, Founder Director, Socialigence – Developing Social Intelligence

www.socialigence.net – Specialized Online Courses and Customized workshops on Observing Nonverbal Behavior and Understanding Emotions (Now! Special Discounts on our online courses – Checkout!!)