September 11, 2012
Tens of millions of Americans watched Mitt Romney and Barack Obama accept their parties’ presidential nominations at their national conventions. We heard their stories and parsed their arguments, but we also watched their faces and, consciously or not, read their nonverbal cues: their body language, how they hugged their families and friends, and above all, their smiles.
Research with my colleagues Erik Bucy at Texas Tech University and Marc Méhu at the University of Geneva suggests that the timing of our leaders’ smiles, and the muscles they use to make them, reveal something about their character and their connection to their constituents. Different kinds of smiles offer distinct revelations, and they elicit different reactions and emotions from viewers.