We can hear smiles -- and tell big ones from little ones

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have demonstrated that we can tell from voice alone whether a speaker is smiling -- and even which sort of smile ("open," "smiley eyes").

The audio for the interviews was then played back to another group of test subjects. Even without seeing the speakers, the listeners were able to hear the different types of smile the speaker made as he or she went through the wacky interview.

"A voice contains a variety of acoustical characteristics" said Drahota. "It's possible that we interpret these 'flavours' in someone's voice almost without noticing."


(Image: Another smile ..., a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike photo from Ferdinand Reus's Flickr stream)


  1. This is fantastically old news. Telemarketers and phone workers of other flavors have been told this for years: smile when talking.

  2. nc ttndd tlk by th mstr f mrphc rsnnc RPRT SHLDRK nd h spnt qt dl f tm dlntng hw ccrtly hmn bngs cn tll f thy’r bng STRD t (strd t frm bhnd n stdy fshn)

    ccrdng t Shldrk, slly w cn tll f w’r bng strd t.

    Snds w bt lk ths dlghtfl stdy.

    t sms t m tht t’s bvs w cn ll slly tll whn smn s smlng (vn v spkn bt f d) bcs w ll grw p 100% f th tm sng fcs (wth smls) nd hrng ccmpnyng vcs tht mk ll typs f xprssns (ncldng smls)

    Rmnds m f th rcrdng f BB DYLN’S “115th Drm” whr n cn ctlly sns Dyln’s xprssv fc lghng s h nd prdcr Tm Wlsn crck p.

  3. Jeremiah Britt, telemarketers and salesmen get told a lot of things. This is about quantifiably knowing it.

  4. #2 – Wow! I was just listening to 115th Dream yesterday and that’s exactly what I thought of when I read this! While I was listening to it I was thinking that the second take, which he plays to conclusion, couldn’t possibly have been recorded so soon after the giggly first take, because all the smile is gone from his voice. Very interesting nuance of human perception.

  5. I work in radio and just like telemarketers, the first thing an announcer learns is to smile while speaking. You can definitely hear the difference.

  6. Telemarketers and other phone workers have been told to smile for years because it’s been known for years – see for example the 1994 Journal of the Accoustical Society of America article “Hearing smiles and frowns in normal and whisper registers”. This new study is both a)corroborative and b)expansive (in that the test subjects can tell details about the smiles – v. cool!).

Comments are closed.