Blame Evolution, Not Athletes for Strutting Their Stuff

All 76 were congenitally blind. They didn't learn to put on a show. It was an involuntary, innate reaction, the researchers conclude, because the athletes never saw anyone else do it.

In another study by Matsumoto, cameras were trained on the faces of both winners and losers, during the competition and during the medals presentation ceremony, and found yet another confirmation that smiles can lie.

The researchers looked for the Duchenne smile -- named after Guillaume Duchenne, a French physician who studied facial expressions in the 19th century -- which involves facial muscles that we cannot control, like the crow's feet around the eyes during a genuine smile.

Those photos revealed real smiles on the faces of gold and bronze medal winners -- gold because they had won, and bronze because they had earned a medal -- but the silver medal winners appeared to be as disappointed as happy.

Of the 54 athletes who participated in the medal ceremony, all 14 of the gold medal winners displayed Duchenne smiles, but only six of the 14 silver medalists showed the characteristics of a genuine smile.

"Gold and bronze medalists were much more likely to display Duchenne smiles than were silver medalists," that study noted.

Interestingly, the researchers found no difference between male and female reactions.

The bottom line, Matsumoto said, if you want to know what's really going in the mind of an athlete, watch his or her antics immediately after a personal triumph. If you wait more than three or four seconds, you will get the rehearsed swagger, not the Duchenne smile.

It won't be possible to determine whether he's right or wrong in the sports-filled weeks ahead, because the cameras follow the action, so they will likely have moved on from the quarterback before his pass is caught for a touchdown.

And, of course, not all athletes are the same.

For every Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback who seldom shows much emotion, there are many showmen who want to be sure everybody gets their message. You can take it for granted that the message will never be humility.

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