A study published in the October issue of Psychological Science
has found that people who feel rejected are significantly better at spotting fake smiles than are other people. (Link: US News & World Report
.) Those who feel rejected can accurately detect fake smiles 80% of the time, versus only 50% for other groups.
According to the author of the study, "It's not clear why rejection may boost the ability to figure out when someone else is faking an emotion. It may have something to do with a primitive need to fit in with others and to detect what they're really thinking."
I think it may have something to do with a concept long recognized in psychology: that people with a slightly negative self-image are better at spotting BS than people with high self-esteem. Why would this be? As my college social psychology textbook explains:
Individuals with negative self-concepts do not engage in the kinds of self-justifying behaviors that are typical of people with relatively high-self-esteem.
Still, I suspect the vast majority of the people in the world would much rather be happy and self-deluded than sad and good at spotting fake smiles.