Why do we smile when we’re nervous?


Someone asked me something serious and I answered “no” with a huge involuntary grin on my face. Why do we smile/laugh when we’re nervous, unable to control it?

In: 42

you want to fool the other person into thinking you’re fine and relaxed. also while smiling, even if you force it, has shown to make you feel better, even if just a little bit. it actually creeps me out how humans can just be “programmed” by simple things like fake smiling, you’re lying to yourself and your brain doesn’t give a shit.

It’s a conditioned response.

When we’re babies (western children especially), we learn that smiling makes our parents happy, but we don’t really know what’s going on or why. Babies want to survive, and making the people who feed and care for you happy is a good way to survive.

When you’re nervous as an adult or adolescent, you default to that setting and grin to make the other person comfortable and not feel like you do, regardless of whether or not it is appropriate to do so.

The person you’re trying to avoid is simply looking for affirmation/support. All they need is some sort of positive reaction. A smile will do. You can either smile and go on with your day, or you can confront the awkward confrontation of interacting with the person that seems to be out of touch with reality. Just smile and nod. They’ll leave after that. The other option is what? Ask them why they’re a weirdo? I have better things to do with my time than act as a shrink for some person that’s out of touch with reality.

This was me all through school. I got made fun of for smiling so much in elementary school. I got voted happiest person in high school. I went to a therapist in middle school and he said it was a defense mechanism that I did when the attention was on me so that people would think I’m fine and stop paying attention to me. Even after I knew that, I couldn’t control it. As an adult, it’s gotten better, but people still tell me I smile a lot sometimes. But now I can shut them down and they will listen.

I never smile if I can help it. Showing one’s teeth is a submission signal in primates. When someone smiles at me, all I see is a chimpanzee begging for its life.

EDIT: Not a lot of Dwight Schrute fans around here I guess.