This research states that men respond differently to different type of smiles, particularly in stress. It also emphasizes how nonverbal cues can affect skills and social interactions. Distinct type of smile is responsible for a totally different physiological and substantial response. During stressful conditions, our body produces hormones called glucocorticoid.
These hormones affect many systems inside the body. HPA axis (hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal axis) plays a significant role in these hormonal effects.
Researchers from University of Wisconsin-Madison carried out this research. NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health supported this research. It is published in Scientific Reports.
What did they do?
A team of scientists investigated whether HPA axis is involved in nonverbal feedbacks such as smile and other expressions. Previously, the team identified the characteristics of three different types of smiles. “Reward” smile shows happiness and supportive behavior “Affiliation” smile maintain a social bond and “dominance” smile shows superiority and condemnatory behavior.
Scientists selected ninety male college going students. These students gave three short speeches in front of a male arbitrator over a web camera. In reality, the arbitrator appeared online for a short time and then turned off his camera. After three speeches, scientists showed the students expressions of the arbitrator.
They did this while making them believe they were spontaneous reactions. In actual, they recorded all of these expressions beforehand. They showed the students one reward, affiliation and dominance smile separately after their three speeches. Along with this, they also showed neutral and passive response as the control.
What did they find?
These researchers after the experiment measured glucocorticoid level in these student’s saliva. They also measured heart rate before, during and after this activity. They found that in addition to increasing heart rate, dominating smiles increased the glucocorticoid level in saliva.
This resulted in an increase in the level of stress. In comparison, affiliating and rewarding smiles tend to neutralize stress. Participants receiving affiliated and reward smiles adjusted their body to its original glucocorticoid level after 30 minutes of speech. In contrast, those who received dominance smile continued to have higher cortisol level even after thirty minutes.
Heart rate variability is also connected to a sensitivity to nonverbal cues and expressions. Scientists found that men who have a higher threshold for heart rate variability have a more intense physiological response to different type of smiles. These are some of the differences in people which determine how people will react in different types of social conditions.
How is this research helpful?
This study shows that the minute changes that people make in their facial expressions can considerably affect the other person. People can change another person’s experience, their body language and nervousness with their expressions. The person may also feel like people are evaluating them.
There is a need for more research to better understand people’s response to nonverbal cues. Women generally respond differently than men in stressful conditions. Scientists did no include them in this study due to some complications by the use of oral contraceptives.