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Returning a smile depends on complex social hierarchy, says study


A new study said that who you return a smile to depends on their rank and social status.


Stan Honda

Researchers have found that your boss smiling at you might not be a good thing.

A new study shows that those who are in positions of power don't tend to smile back at people they deem important.

The research suggests that smiling back may be a sign of weakness in front of those one may deem a threat.

Researchers at the University of Southern California tested the reactions of 55 men and women divided into those who believed themselves to be powerful personally and those who didn't.

They were shown pictures of people of all different ranks and positions from doctors to fast-food restaurant workers with some smiling and others not.

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The volunteers had their muscles involved in smiling recorded while looking at the pictures, said the Wall Street Journal.

The reactions of those involved seemed to depend on the person they were shown and whom they were "mirroring" in the photos.

Those feeling empower rarely returned smiles to other powerful people, while those who felt disempowered mirrored everyone's smile.

This means that people seem to conceal or reveal their smile depending on complicated social situations based on power and status.

"Our interpretation of this is that when you are feeling powerful and see a low-status person, you are almost throwing them a bone, thinking “Oh, I should smile at this person because I’m better than them," said study co-author Evan Carr, of the University of Southern California, reported the Daily Mail.