Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Gender and Ethnic Differences in Smiling: A Longitudinal Perspective Using YearbookPhotographs from 6th Grade Through 12th Grade


Psychology Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Since the 1980s a growing body of research has focused on gender differences in smiling with the majority of the findings demonstrating that women smile more often and more expansively than men (e.g., Abel, 2002; Ellis, 2006). However, little research has focused specifically on the age at which this gender difference first emerges, and whether differences between ethnic groups in the US exist. In a previous study, Wondergem and Friedlmeier (2012) examined gender and ethnic differences using 18,201 yearbook photographs ranging from kindergarten through 12th grade from 17 schools in Michigan, USA. Results indicated that gender differences in smiling emerge around age 11. In addition, differences in smiling were found to be larger between African American (AA) girls and boys than between European American (EA) girls and boys. Moreover, we found that AA girls smiling behavior did not differ as a function of school diversity while AA boys from predominantly AA schools displayed less smiling compared to those from mixed or predominantly EA schools. The present study expanded upon the results of Wondergem and Friedlmeier (2012) by using a longitudinal approach. We examined yearbook photographs of the same individuals from sixth grade through 12th grade (total N = 430 individuals; girls = 54.88%; African Americans = 20.23%). Each smile was evaluated on a 3-point scale ranging from 0 (no smile) to 2 (full smile). Results confirmed the gender effects for both ethnic groups, with girls showing a significantly higher level of smile across the different school years compared to boys. Different from our previous study, the AA boys did not differ in their smiling behavior from the EA boys. This may be explained by the fact that all yearbooks were from schools with a predominantly EA student population. There was no clear trend of an increase or a decrease of smiling over the examined period. About 83% of all participants showed a within-subject standard deviation of less than 0.5. The smiling patterns were overall stable within most of the individuals. However, boys who displayed significantly less smile across the years fluctuated more compared to girls. The results will be interpreted based on socialization theories.

Conference Name

International Conference of Cross-Cultural Psychology

Conference Location

Reims, France

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