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BPS News

Smiling Trumps Stereotypes

26 August 2016

When strangers meet, they jump to a lot of conclusions about each other extremely quickly – a process that psychologists call “thin slicing” in reference to the thinness of the evidence upon which such sweeping inferences are made.

For instance, being a woman means you’re more likely to be perceived as warm, but less likely to be seen as dominant. If you’re Asian in ethnicity, chances are people will assume you’re less warm but more competent than average.

Facial expressions also make an impact – for example, when we smile, we’re seen as more extravert.

But what happens when these different influences on first impressions contradict each other? Which comes out on top?

A new study discussed on our Research Digest blog provides tentative evidence that smiles trump cues related to gender and ethnicity.

In short, if you smile, you’re probably less likely to be judged by your social identity.

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