Brighten up: Smiles facilitate perceptual judgment of facial lightness

Hyunjin Song, Andrew J. Vonasch, Brian P. Meier, John A. Bargh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The metaphoric expression 'bright smile' may reflect the actual judgment of facial lightness under varying emotional expressions. The present research examined whether people in fact judge smiling faces as perceptually brighter than frowning faces. Four studies demonstrated that participants believed smiling faces were brighter compared to frowning faces in a binary choice task and in an absolute judgment task. The results suggest that emotional expressions (i.e., smiles and frowns) can bias judgments of facial brightness in ways consistent with the metaphor. Among other implications, such results suggest that stereotypes about darker-skinned individuals may be attenuated by smiles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-452
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012


  • Color perception
  • Embodiment
  • Face perception
  • Facial expression
  • Facial lightness
  • Metaphor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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