For many people, one of the unspoken rules for being cool is maintaining an emotionally inexpressive attitude. This message is reinforced through advertisements where fashion models rarely smile and by quotes from celebrities. In an article in the Huffington Post, Kanye West said he doesn’t smile in photographs because “it just wouldn’t look as cool.”
Researchers at the University of Arizona recently questioned whether this connection between concealing emotions and coolness was in fact true. In a series of experiments, the investigators showed participants photographs of celebrities and non-celebrities who were smiling or inexpressive, and their results call into question common assumptions about what makes someone cool. The study is available online in the Journal of Consumer Psychology.
“We found over and over again that people are perceived to be cooler when they smile compared to when they are inexpressive in print advertisements,” says Caleb Warren, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Arizona. “Being inexpressive makes people seem unfriendly or cold rather than cool.”