domingo, julio 25, 2010

We are better at spotting fake smiles when feeling rejected

The last thing you need if you're feeling rejected is to waste time pursuing

friendships with people who aren't genuinely interested. That's according to

Michael Bernstein and his colleagues, who say we've actually evolved a

perceptual adaptation to rejection that helps prevent this from happening.

Bernstein's team provoked feelings of rejection in students by asking them

to write about a time they felt rejected or excluded. These students were

subsequently better at distinguishing fake from real smiles as depicted in

four-second video clips, than were students who'd either been asked to write

about a time they felt included, or to write about the previous morning.

"These results are among the first to show that rejection can lead to

increases in performance at the perceptual level, provided that the

performance supports opportunities for affiliation," the researchers said.

However, I wonder if this increased ability to detect fake smiles is as

adaptive as the researchers imply. In the same way that unrealistically

positive beliefs about the self can guard against depression, perhaps it

would be more helpful to a socially excluded person to tone down their

sensitivity to fake smiles. After all, just because a stranger gives you a

fake smile doesn't mean they aren't a potential friend - they may just have

had a bad day.


Michael J. Bernstein, Steven G. Young, Christina M. Brown, Donald F. Sacco,

Heather M. Claypool (2008). Adaptive Responses to Social Exclusion: Social

Rejection Improves Detection of Real and Fake Smiles. Psychological Science,

19 (10), 981-983.

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