Why it's good if your boss doesn't readily smile at you

A study shows that people who feel powerful readily return smiles to people they perceive as low status. But people who feel powerless smile most of all.
Written by Laura Shin, Contributor

If you smile at someone and they don't smile back, it can feel like an unreturned high-five.

But a new study suggests it could mean something good about your status.

It turns out that people who feel powerful are more likely to return smiles to people they believe are low status, according to a study presented in New Orleans at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference. When it comes to people they perceive to be higher status, they are less likely to reciprocate with a smile.

But people who don't feel particularly powerful return everyone's smiles almost equally.

The study, led by Evan Carr of the psychology department at the University of California in San Diego had 55 volunteers watch videos of high-status people such as doctors or business leaders and low-status people such as fast food workers or garbage collectors. Beforehand, he and his team had primed the volunteers to feel more or less powerful.

When the study participants watched the videos, Carr measured activity in the smiling muscle that raises the corner of the mouth and the frowning muscle that creases the brow. The result?

"If you feel powerful, you suppress smiling to targets that are of a higher status," he said to the Guardian. "If you see Joe the senior vice-president and he's smiling at you, but you feel powerful, you feel less of a need to smile back at him. For the low-power condition, you return more smiles to everyone, regardless of their status."

Hm ... sounds like a way to assert your power at work is to adopt a more stoic face?

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via: The Guardian

photo: The Louvre/Wikimedia

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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