face masks

Time to Master Your Smize

The Madame Tussaud’s dummy of Tyra Banks with a face mask. Photo: Getty Images

It was back in 2009 on season 13 of America’s Next Top Model that Tyra Banks coined the term smize. To smize, of course, is to “smile with your eyes,” and this was a key concept of episode three: “Fortress of Fierceness.”

But new research from Australia’s Deakin University suggests that if you haven’t yet nailed the smize, you might want to start practicing. Dr. Soukayna Bekkali, an associate lecturer at Deakin’s Cognitive Neuroscience Unit, says that in this period of increased mask wearing, people will likely become more sensitive to “reading alternative social cues,” e.g., eye contact, brow movement, and body language.

In a report about her research, Bekkali explains that, on average, over half of human communication is nonverbal, and facial expressions are a key part of that: “We can decipher a lot about how someone is feeling, thinking, or communicating, via the top part of the face. In fact, research suggests that we can decipher the difference between a genuine smile and a false smile by reading the eye and brow area alone, suggesting that, when the modeling industry came up with the term of ‘smize’, they were onto something.”

That said, the smize is notoriously difficult to achieve, even for those of us who have had a decade to practice. Often, it ends up looking like a squint, and as Cut writer Katie Heaney wrote back in April, “I personally have gotten the sense that people I’ve smiled at from behind my mask haven’t really understood that I’m smiling at them. My eyes may crinkle, but without my mouth or even my nose as supplementary clues, even I can’t confidently say I’m smiling when I practice, mask on, in the mirror.”

But Bekkali’s research is good news for those of us who are in the same boat: Despite what we may think, people are probably getting the idea that we’re smiling at them. That said, if this is all proving too complicated for you (as it is for me), might I suggest you simply go the clear-mask route.

Time to Master Your Smize