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Socially Rejected Are Better Judges of Sincerity

manA new study suggests being rejected by peers, friends and even family members may enable an individual to spot a “fake” when they encounter someone who isn’t being genuine.

A Miami University study published in the October issue of the journal Psychological Science shows people who have faced rejection have an enhanced ability to determine whether the “happy” face before them is genuine.

The research found that subjects who were manipulated to feel rejection were able to distinguish a fake smile from a real one nearly 80 percent of the time. Researchers studied 32 subjects, 17 women and 15 men.

“This seems to be a skill we’ve acquired through evolution,” said Michael Bernstein, a Miami doctoral student in social psychology and one of the researchers.

“Living in groups several hundreds of years ago was extremely important to survival. Being kicked out of the group was like death, so they became very good at reading facial expressions and social cues. People these days who are rejected are in a dangerous place because of evolutional pressure to find their way back into a group.”

Bernstein, three other Miami graduate students and Heather Claypool, assistant professor of psychology, conducted the study. Some in the group initially thought the outcome would be just the opposite.

“Some thought the subjects who had been rejected would latch on to any sign of positivity and accept the insincere smiles as genuine,” Bernstein said. “But it’s clear we’re equipped with radar for identifying who is open to affiliation and who is not.”

According to Bernstein, real smiles are incredibly difficult to fake because a real smile is an automatic response to a positive feeling. He says if you can tell the difference between a real and fake smile, you can identify a good person who you can relate with, and weed out the others.

Source: Miami University

Socially Rejected Are Better Judges of Sincerity

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Socially Rejected Are Better Judges of Sincerity. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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