Another one from Vox’s Alpha Game:
Women say they resent it when men tell them to smile. And well they should. An instinctive smile, when one is not expressing pleasure or recognition, is a submissive gesture. This is why attractive women tend to smirk in response to the big goofy submissive smiles sent their way by lower status men.
I can’t remember if I’ve talked about this before, but the most important thing to note about “smirking” is its asymmetrical character. This almost certainly means that its natural expression (that is, unplanned and unrehearsed) must contain a component of disgust. Of Eckman’s six primary emotions, only disgust produces an asymmetrical facial expression.
If I may speculate further (else: why are you on the internet?), I would nearly identify the emotion of contempt with smirking. Contempt is often described as a mix of anger and disgust, but I think smirking has an element of what may be loosely described as joy. That is, the joy of dominance, or the pleasure of recognizing that someone else is inferior to you in some way.
Smirking is a sort of high-class sneer. Sneering is for unreconstructed homo sapiens sapiens, smirking is more of a melonhead thing. Both are for out-grouping, but a sneer indicates a desire for violence whereas a smirk indicates that, despite your subhumanity, you are still eligible to be a slave. It goes hand-in-hand with “amused mastery” a la Roissy.
I think I’ve followed that train of thought long enough, time to switch tracks for a bit.
Why is smiling a submissive thing? It indicates joy and dopamine release, which are not things we’d usually associated with slavery. Looking a bit deeper, I note that happiness indicates contentment and, in game theoretic terms, the recognition that one should continue with a successful strategy to repeatedly obtain dopamine. That is, telling someone to smile is equivalent to telling someone “You are content. Repeatedly affirm to me that you are content in a preverbal way.”
Insofar as the process can be reversed, and expressions can make us feel the corresponding emotions through associative recall, this could be considered a form of brainwashing. But I’m not sold on all that jazz, as the effectiveness varies per person, and it doesn’t seem all that effective in the main. As Tex likes to say, it sometimes seems like sapiens is constantly plastering his face with the exact opposite of whatever emotion he’s feeling. So smiling to make yourself happy is probably a ‘thal thing, and when you’re bad at ignoring reality your sense of emotional associativity tends to break down.
Oh, two last things. One is that smiling at someone is to say “Your very presence gives me dopamine.” Goes beyond the demands of politeness if you ask me, but it’s a nice thing to communicate. So that’s another reason it makes sense for a dominant person to demand this. But it tips the game theory a bit in terms of who needs whom (the basis of non-altruistic relationship dynamics). The other last thing is that I found this neat 3D expression viewer while I was writing this, and thought I’d share: http://www.faceturn.com/happy/index.php