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PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19903. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019903. Epub 2011 May 25.

Eyes are windows to the Chinese soul: evidence from the detection of real and fake smiles.

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  • 1Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States of America.


How do people interpret the meaning of a smile? Previous studies with Westerners have found that both the eyes and the mouth are crucial in identifying and interpreting smiles, yet less is known about Easterners. Here we reported that when asking the Chinese to judge the Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles as either real or fake, their accuracy and sensitivity were negatively correlated with their individualism scores but positively correlated with their collectivism scores. However, such correlations were found only for participants who stated the eyes to be the most useful references, but not for those who favored the mouth. Moreover, participants who favored the eyes were more accurate and sensitive than those who favored the mouth. Our results thus indicate that Chinese who follow the typical Eastern decoding process of using the eyes as diagnostic cues to identify and interpret others' facial expressions and social intentions, are particularly accurate and sensitive, the more they self-report greater collectivistic and lower individualistic values.

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