Smiling is not just a social phenomenon. People with severe visual impairments, such as blindness, have been studied in various social situations. In situations where smiling would be appropriate, such as winning a medal in an athletic event, they make the same facial expression as those who have seen smiles all of their lives. The study event went so far as to investigate the idea of social smiles. A genuine smile causes the cheeks to rise and the eyes to twinkle, while a social smile uses only the mouth muscles. Blind individuals were even shown to use social smiles, rather than genuine smiles, when the situation allowed–such as when winning a bronze medal rather than a gold.
Those that have been born blind have no way of learning a smile from others. There must be some innate, genetic sense for how to smile based on our emotions. This brings new meaning to the quote “We all smile in the same language,” as we remember that smiles bring us together in more ways than one.