Why do people smile? This Independent Study explores previous studies on this question. It fmds that two types of motivations result in smiling. The first type of motivation is situational, wherein people smile because of different social environments which make them feel certain emotions. The second type of motivation is based on status. Status motivators include gender, social dominance, cultural differences and age. To understand why there might be variations in smiling, I explore Theory of symbolic interactionism. Symbolic interactionists believe that actions, like smiling, are performances. This Independent Study focuses on the question of whether age affects smiling. I recruited thirty women, ages 18- to 60-years, to watch a humorous video clip and videotaped their facial expressions while they watched. Participants were broken down into three age groups, 18-22, 23-42, and 43-60, and the number of smiles per participant was recorded as well as the times at which they smiled. Results showed that the 18-to 22-year-olds smiled slightly more often than the older groups. There was little difference in the number of smiles made by the different age pairs, but the differences that occurred can be explained through symbolic interactionism. In other words, the 18- to 22-year-olds smiled more frequently because they were more likely to try to impress the other person whereas the older two groups were less concerned about the other person.


Nurse, Anne M.


Sociology and Anthropology

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150

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© Copyright 2005 Kathryn Powell