Monday, November 21, 2011

Negotiation Body Language Secret # 705: R2E2,
Pseudo-Smiles and Bonding Beguiles

There are many types of pseudo-smiles and this photo of Jemima Marcelle Khan is a great example of but one. With a sincere smile, the bottom teeth should not be visible. At the very least, if you see any of the lower sixteen, there is a component of forced behavior or an attempt to exaggerate the smile. Hugh Grant's ex's nose and her perinasal area in this particular example is also not characteristic of a sincere, felt smile. It is however, very consistent with the emotion of disgust (Ekman). This particular false-smile nonverbal is a favorite of actors and those in the public eye because most find it fairly easy to replicate on-demand (Pease).

Another variation of this facial expression (here disgust, but also may appear similar to disgust - especially the nasal/perinasal disgust-like changes) is often seen when a person is trying to convince another of their point-of-view. In these scenarios, the mouth component is often less pronounced. It represents an attempt to build rapport and empathy, e.g. - when the expressor feels the need to convince another (or themselves). When you see it displayed - know it as a signal of rationalization taking place. I call it the "Rationalization-Rapport-Empathy-Expression" (R2E2), (Brown, 2011). While it is usually quite evanescent, and it can be as brief as a classically described microexpression (less than 0.5 seconds), it more typically lasts somewhat longer (1 - 2 seconds). Along with the pronounced nose-wrinkling and false-smiling mouth, there is an exaggerated partial eyelid closure (aka "squint" or "squinting") and bunching of the cheeks.

When these R2E2 facial changes occur, there is often an additional, brief and simultaneous "leaning forward" towards the other person(s) (Brown, 2011). This temporary closure of the interpersonal space suggests greater friendship-intimacy-trust and it's a further subconscious attempt at building rapport.

Often times there is a component of the R2E2 that's directed at oneself just as much (or more), than what's focused on others. When you see this nonverbal, rationalization is taking place - often because full confidence is lacking - and thus often a component of manipulation is occurring. 

The R2E2 is displayed by either sex, but is slightly more common and more pronounced in women and gay men.