What's in a smile?

D. S. Messinger, A. Fogel, K. L. Dickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


In positive social contexts, both adults and older infants show more Duchenne smiling (which involves high cheek raising) than non-Duchenne smiling (which does not). This study compared Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiles in early infancy for clues to their emotional significance. Infants (N = 13) from 1 to 6 months of age were videotaped weekly for 5 min in 208 face-to-face interactions with their mothers. Levels of Duchenne and non-Duchenne smiling were correlated within interactive sessions, and the 2 smiles had similar developmental trajectories. Duchenne smiles were typically preceded by non-Duchenne smiles. The results suggest these frequently contrasted types of smiles occur in similar situations and are often different temporal phases of a continuous emotional process. In contrast to adults, infant Duchenne smiles had longer durations than non-Duchenne smiles, suggesting infant smiling does not fit adult models of emotional functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-708
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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