Why Smile?

The Science Behind Facial Expressions

Marianne LaFrance (Author, Yale University)


“A charming, thoughtful book, one that makes a powerful case for smiles as ‘social acts with consequences.’ ”—Boston Sunday Globe

When someone smiles, the effects are often positive: a glum mood lifts; an apology is accepted; a deal is struck; a flirtation begins. But change the circumstances or the cast of a smile, and the terms shift: a rival grins to get under your skin; a bully’s smirk unsettles his mark. Marianne LaFrance, called the world’s expert on smiles, investigates the familiar grin and finds that it is not quite as simple as it first appears. LaFrance shows how the smile says much more than we realize—or care to admit: not just cheerful expressions, smiles are social acts with serious consequences.

Drawing on her research conducted at Yale University and Boston College as well as the latest studies in psychology, medicine, anthropology, biology, and computer science, LaFrance explores the compelling science behind the smile. Who shows more fake smiles, popular kids or unpopular kids? Is it good or bad when a bereaved person smiles? These are some of the questions answered in this groundbreaking and insightful work. To read it is to learn just how much the smile influences our lives and our relationships.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • January 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34422-6
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 352 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“LaFrance’s extensive research, clear and sometimes humorous writing, and interdisciplinary approach make this a very fine book for anyone who smiles (or doesn’t).” — Publishers Weekly

“LaFrance shows that there is much more to a pair of upturned lips than meets the eye.” — Scientific American

“A masterly example of social sciences at its best—a look at how researchers do their work, what questions they ask, how answers lead to new questions, and why all of this matters in our everyday lives. . . . LaFrance’s true subject is not simply the smile but its uniquely human double purpose: to convey our feelings—and disguise them.” — Wall Street Journal

“Yale psychology professor Marianne LaFrance draws on the latest research—in fields from biology to anthropology to computer science—in an effort to shed some light on the happy face.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

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