‘When you’re smiling, when you’re smiling …the whole world smiles with you…’
It’s a known fact that humans are pre – programmed from babyhood to seek out ‘faces’. As adults, we become very used to reading faces as a ‘whole image’, as one of the most common stimuli that we encounter in everyday life. Many of us extend this predisposition and ‘see’ faces in other unusual circumstances, inanimate objects and natural phenomenon. Pareidolia, to identify the term correctly, can direct us to see a ‘face’ in the gnarled bark of a tree, to create a facial expression from the configuration of tail lights and rear bumper of the car in front and in many other situations. It’s the ‘whole thing’ that helps us to create a facial expression.
Until now. Here, in a time when human faces are now partially covered by the masks designed to protect us from the virus, with only our eyes visible. How can we manage this alien non-interaction, avoid a natural human (and for some of us, cultural) reticence to ‘stare’ or over prolong eye-contact until it becomes uncomfortable and learn to maximise the fleeting moments of eye contact, when all other contact is denied us?
Quite easily, as it turns out! Nothing is more distressing than a fleeting smile hidden behind a mask, met with what appears to be a ‘blank stare’ or a quick ‘eyes right’ avoidance tactic because the smile didn’t quite make it above the mask. Easy to change! Eye contact that indicates a broad smile beneath a mask makes a huge difference, creates connection in a world that is focused on distancing us from the very interactions that make us human. Making that difference is easy – the bigger the smile, the more likely it is to reach our eyes and show that beneath the mask, we are making the most universal ‘connecting’ signal – recognisable in any part of the world! Go ahead – exercise the smile muscles and let the eyes do their job as ‘windows to the soul’