Smile? :-) or ^-^?
I’m not going to become some sort of advocate for BoingBoing on this blog. But seeing as Nursel recently posted on municipal plans to promote more smiling in parts of Melbourne, I thought I’d mention some recent BoingBoing posts on the cross-cultural differences in smiling.
This article suggests that there are cross-cultural differences in the way Japanese and Americans read facial expressions, including smiles. Apparently the Japanese pay much more attention to the eyes, while Americans are more focused on the mouth. One sign of this is the different emphasis given to mouth and eyes in American and Japanese emoticons: 🙂 vs ^-^ and 😦 vs ;-; (Unfortunately this blogging software has a cultural bias and converts only the American keystrokes into cute little faces, thus making a point about the non-culturally neutral nature of technology).
In a related article, BoingBoing also cites a report that claims that Brits and Americans use different muscles when they smile, meaning that entire nations can have characteristic “looks” to their facial expressions.
These would make a perfect example for an introduction to anthropology unit to illustrate to new students the role “culture” plays in acts that we assume to be “natural”. And when we are admonished by our local municipality to smile more, we might ask exactly what they mean by that. 😉