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Why Smile: The Science Behind Facial Expressions Paperback – January 21, 2013
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“Yale psychology professor Marianne LaFrance draws on the latest research―in fields from biology to anthropology to computer science―in an effort to shed some light on the happy face.”
- O, The Oprah Magazine
“If you had one year to live, how would you spend it? That’s a question most of us wouldn’t know how to answer but for one British publisher and translator it was easy: to translate Tolstoy’s great story about a dying man, The Death of Ivan Illyich….”
- Publishers Weekly
“This volume…for all its somberness of subject, is a vindication of the human spirit.”
- Scientific American
“A masterly example of social sciences at its best―a look at how researchers do their work, what questions they ask, how answers lead to new questions, and why all of this matters in our everyday lives. . . . LaFrance’s true subject is not simply the smile but its uniquely human double purpose: to convey our feelings―and disguise them.”
- Wall Street Journal
About the Author
Marianne LaFrance received her PhD from Boston University. She is now a professor at Yale University, and her research has been featured in media outlets such as NPR, the BBC, and the New York Times. She lives in Guilford, Connecticut.
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Update: I recently skimmed the book again, and it makes some really valuable points, so I raised my rating a notch. But I still think the same could have been said with fewer words.
Though she's an academic, Ms. LaFrance never makes one strain to follow, say, overly formal language. I also appreciated her occasional touches of humor. The book cites many, many studies, but always stays lively and never drags on that account. All in all, a most enjoyable read and one I'm sure I'll be returning to again. The title on the paperback edition has been changed to Why Smile: The Science Behind Facial Expressions.
Particular highlights include a chapter "Real Men Don't Smile" which examines women who went to war as men, transgendered persons, and the different musculatures that may account for women's tendency to smile more than men. Throughout the book, the fake, the false, the "snake in thy smile, my dear," the con artists' smiles offer a course useful to anyone trying to learn the ropes of human social interaction.
In all, this book makes compelling reading. Smile for the camera. "Cheese."