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A Smile Radiates Outwards and Biases the Eye Expression

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 July 2013

Andrés Fernández-Martín*
Universidad de La Laguna (Spain)
Aida Gutiérrez-García
Complejo Asistencial Universitario de Burgos (Spain)
Manuel G. Calvo
Universidad de La Laguna (Spain)
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andrés Fernández-Martín. Departamento de Psicología Cognitiva. Universidad de La Laguna. 38205. Tenerife (Spain). E- mail:


This study investigated how extrafoveally seen smiles influence the viewers’ perception of non-happy eyes in a face. A smiling mouth appeared in composite faces with incongruent (angry, fearful, neutral, etc.) eyes, thus producing blended expressions, or they appeared in intact faces with genuine expressions. Overt attention to the eye region was spatially cued, foveal vision of the mouth was blocked by gaze-contingent masking, and the distance between the eyes and the mouth was varied. Participants evaluated whether the eyes were happy or not. Results indicated that the same non-happy eyes were more likely to be judged as happy, and more slowly to be judged as not happy, in presence more than in absence of a smile. As (a) the smiling mouth was highly salient regardless of type of eyes, (b) the influence on the eyes increased gradually as a function of eye-mouth proximity, and (c) the effect occurred in the absence of fixations on the mouth, we conclude that a salient smile radiates outwards to other face regions through a projection mechanism, thus making the eye expression look happy.

Research Article
Copyright © Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid 2013 

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This research was supported by Grant PSI2009-07245 from the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, and the Agencia Canaria de Investigación, Innovación y Sociedad de la Información (Neurocog Project), and the European Regional Development Funds.


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