Why Russian people don't smile

Friday 07 October 2016 08:45

He may share his birthday with World Smile Day, but it's rare you'll catch Vladimir Putin with a grin on his face.

People from Russia - as well as countries like Iran and France - don't smile as much as others - and there are some key societal reasons for that.

Kuba Krys, a psychologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences, recently published a paper about "uncertainty avoidance".

A bad explanation for this term is the assumption that people from some societies feel anxiety around situations that are uncertain.

This is a characteristic found more frequently in societies which are politically repressed, where schooling is respected and structured especially around sciences and where strong social norms are preferred. In addition corruption tends to be a little more prevalent and civil services tend to be a bit more unstable.

Therefore, the paper argued that smiling in countries such as these, would be less welcome - a smiling face could be duplicitous.

To test this, the study asked thousands in 44 countries to judge eight smiling and non-smiling faces.

The results were that some countries thought you were less intelligent if you smiled, such as Russia, Japan and Iran...

Picture: Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

... while some thought you were less honest, like Argentina, Zimbabwe, Iran and Russia:

Picture: Journal of Nonverbal Behavior

The researcher concluded that this:

indicates that corruption at the societal level may weaken the meaning of an evolutionary important signal such as smiling.

It's an interesting theory, but the study also notes gender and culture play a role and that "the samples may not be fully representative of the cultures they come from (i.e., predominantly university students were recruited to participate)".

The conclusion also read:

The role of smile intensity is also another ripe area for future research.

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