The BBC has a really interesting test on its web site at the moment. It's all about whether or not people can spot fake smiles versus real ones.
I figured that since it's part of the diagnostic criteria for aspergers that we have problems reading non-verbal cues, it would provide some insightful results.
Real versus Fake Smile Test
The test shows you 20 videos of people smiling either real or fake smiles. You can't replay the smiles until you've finished voting but you can spend as long as you like thinking about them before you choose your answer.
I expected to do badly but in fact, I did really well. I got 19 out of 20 correct.
You'll need a flash enabled browser/computer to do the test.
My Secret (Don't read this until you've done the test yourself)
At the end of the test, it asks you to indicate what clued you in.
In my case it was not the smiles at all. It was other head movements (like shaking it) which indicated that the person had just heard a joke. It was also the speed of the smile. A fake smile is slow and controlled whereas a real smile is spontaneous and fast. It's out of the persons's control.
What it all means
Ultimately, this article causes me to question whether or not people with aspergers have as much difficulty with non-verbal cues as the literature suggests.
- Perhaps we just take longer to think about it. In this case, the length of time available to us matters and the test results don't show the outcome of high speed selection.
- Perhaps we learn as we get older - and I'm doing much better now that I would have done ten years ago?
- Perhaps it's just a function of our naievity. I'd been told that some smiles were going to be fake, so I was expecting them - and suspicious of all.
Whatever the reason, the test and the results are very interesting.