When first considering publishing a scholarly work on smiling, Dr. Abel was surprised to find no book dedicated to the theoretical and empirical understanding of this common facial expression. Thus the purpose of this edited book was to bring together leading scholars in the area and fill this void in the literature. Preface; Smiling faces attract us. They draw us in. We wonder. Why are they smiling? We are curious about smiling, particularly as we become aware that all smiles are not alike. Psychologists, artists, photographers, business persons, teachers, health professionals, criminal, security, and judicial workers, and students of facial behavior, will benefit from the studies and thinking presented in this excellent volume on smiling. The smile is among the most frequent facial patterns we perform and observe and is the most universally recognized facial expression of emotion. There are numerous situations throughout a day where we would notice and interpret the absence of smiling as a negative emotional expression or negative social statement.
Among the many uses of a smile is the expression of happiness, the communication of positive intent, or to signal agreement or assent. The smile also is used to support and encourage interaction and to diffuse conflict. Despite, or perhaps because of, the high frequency and multiple functions of the smile, systematic studies of the smile are relatively rare, or as Bolzani, Messinger, Yale, and Dondi so aptly state in their chapter, "The study of the smile is still in its infancy." Understanding the smile appears deceptively simple, yet it can be quite complex. To a great extent, we understand and integrate the complexity of a smile without conscious effort. We do not immediately assume that the smiling person is happy. Rather, we quickly factor in earlier knowledge of the smiling person, the physical and social context of what is spoken and what occurred immediately preceding and following the smile, and the morphology of the particular smile.