Watching a Friends episode that you’ve seen a million times but still makes you chuckle (Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!), or coming home from work to discover that your favourite meal has been cooked for tea! (Slow cooked beef and roasties, yum) Most people smile at some point during their day, but do they ever stop to think about the action and the impact it can have on their lives and the lives of those around them?
When meeting new people a smile can have a profound effect on the outcome of the encounter. In his groundbreaking book published in 1937 How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie devoted an entire chapter to the power of a smile. Entitled ‘A Simple Way to Make a Good Impression’, Carnegie describes using the smile to create good, positive first impressions and details a number of anecdotal evidence to support this. He states that individuals who smile more are more likely to be hired from a job interview, manage people more effectively, sell more efficiently and are even more successful in bringing up children. Perhaps the most affecting account is that of William B. Steinhardt, a New York City stockbroker who decided to test the theory and smiled at someone every hour of every day for a week. The result was remarkable in all areas of his life, having been married for 18 years Steinhardt noticed the happiness return to his marriage by simply greeting his wife with a smile at the breakfast table!
Matthew J. Hertenstein et al. (2009) examined whether the intensity of smiles displayed in photographs from childhood and adolescence would predict the likelihood of divorce in later life. In the first study, around 650 adults aged between 21-87 years were asked to provide their final year school photographs. The photographs were coded for smile intensity and the participants were asked questions regarding their romantic relationships to determine whether they had ever been divorced. The researchers found that the less intensely participants smiled, the greater the chance of them becoming divorced in later life. Staggeringly to the extent that those with the weakest smiles were more than 3 times more likely to divorce! The second study aimed to test the theory using photographs from an even younger age, 55 participants aged 59-91 years provided photographs taken between the ages of 5-22 years. The findings of Study 1 were supported even for children as young as 5 years old! Compelling evidence! The researchers believe that individuals who are generally of a happier disposition are more likely to marry equally happy companions and are also more likely to work through difficulties in the relationship.
And if that hasn’t convinced you that you should be smiling more, then this will…
Researchers at Wayne State University in Michigan (Abel & Kruger, 2010) studied the relationship between smile intensity and life expectancy amongst baseball players. The players had all started playing before 1950 for major US teams and their photographs were taken from the 1952 Baseball Register. This also provided the researchers with statistics for birth year, body mass index, marital status and career length. Each player photograph was classified as one of the following: ‘no smile’, ‘partial smile’ using only mouth muscles or ‘full smile’ involving both mouth and eye muscles. Those classifications were then correlated with the age to which they lived. The results revealed a marked correlation between the two; the ‘no smile’ category lived for an average of 72.9 years, ‘partial smile’ 75 years and ‘full smile’ lived until the grand age of 79.9 years!
The Duchenne (D) smile is widely regarded as a spontaneous and genuine expression of happiness or enjoyment, described by its discoverer Duchenne de Boulogne as a smile “put into play by the sweet emotions of the soul . . .” The D smile has been classified using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS)and involves a combination of two facial muscle movements. The zygomaticus major muscle pulls the lip corners up, and the orbicularis oculi, pars lateralis muscle lifts the cheeks and causes the eye socket to wrinkle and produce ‘crow’s feet’. Studies have shown that individuals displaying a D smile are believed to be more emotional, pleasant and in better humour than those displaying a non-Duchenne smile. The D smile also leads to more affiliative responses from the recipient. Krumhuber and Manstead (2009) sought to examine whether there was a difference in the recipient’s rating of a smile depending on whether it was genuine (spontaneous) or fake (deliberate). It was predicted that spontaneous D smiles would be rated as more genuine than deliberate D smiles or spontaneous ND smiles and this was indeed the case. It seems therefore that there is one type of genuine, felt smile: the spontaneous Duchenne smile.
It is surprisingly difficult to differentiate between a genuine smile and a fake smile… Can you tell the difference? Take this test and see! There are 20 short video clips and you have to decide whether the smile displayed is genuine or fake, I did it and somehow scored 17 out of 20 but it was very hard!
If the world were categorised as ‘smilers’ and ‘non-smilers’ I would generally be described as a ‘smiler’. Having researched and written this post I intend to step this up so that I sit firmly in the smiling camp. Try Dale Carnegie’s advice and smile at someone once every hour and see if you notice any differences in your life, preferably not the same person as they may become slightly troubled by this! Watch this clip for some tips, the grin-o-meter, an initiative by a Japanese rail company ensures that all their employees’ smiles appear genuine before they start work! If a smile brightens someone’s day, saves your marriage and lengthens your life where is the harm in trying it!