In countries which have become a “melting pot” of nations, such as Canada, people smile more frequently due to the mishmash of traditions and the necessity to overcome the language barrier.
In countries inhabited by the descendants of immigrants, people smile more often than in traditionalist countries. These are the findings of an international team of scientists from the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Israel, India and Indonesia, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The website of the journal Science retells them in brief.
At the first stage, the psychologists took the results of an earlier survey, which covered more than 5,000 people from 32 countries. They were asked to imagine that they were in different comfortable or uncomfortable situations, and to describe what they would do in those situations. Among the answers were “express the feelings openly” and „hide the feelings behind a smile.”
The scientists compared this data with a factor of historical heterogeneity of each country, which shows how important the role of immigrants has been in the genesis of their population over the last 500 years. For example, Canada’s historical heterogeneity factor is 63 and Japan’s, 1.
The comparison showed that inhabitants of the countries with a „melting pot” of nations are more likely to show rather than hide their feelings.
Then the international research team interviewed residents or 9 countries, including the USA, Japan and France. This time, respondents were shown the pictures of smiling people and asked to explain what can be the reason of their smiles. The answers varied from „he/she is just happy” to „he/she wants to sell me something” and even „he/she has feelings towards me.”
The research demonstrated that the respondents from immigrant countries more often believe in the sincerity of someone else’s smile and they are less inclined to see it as a sign of deceit or person’s lower social status. (The Japanese are particularly prone to the last factor, as in their culture smile can be, for example, a way to hide the awkwardness in front of their superiors.)
So, the residents of the countries where everyone or almost everyone is descendant from immigrants are more open and smiling. Psychologists attribute this, firstly, to the mixture of cultures and, secondly, to the necessity for the people from different countries living together to overcome the language barrier, which means more frequent usage of non-verbal communication signals, such as a smile.
„At the basis of it lies the collision of differences in language and emotional culture,” said Paula Niedenthal from the University of Wisconsin in Madison (USA), the lead author of the research. Now she is going to go further: to study the differences in residents’ hospitality in different states of the USA and the correlation with such information as whence the immigrants came to those states and when they lived there.
By the way, scientists have proven that smiling helps not only to establish relationships with people, but also to look younger.
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Translated from Ukrainian by Sofia Romanko