3 Things Your Smile Can Predict about Your Future

smiling teen girlsA smile is a universal symbol of warmth, happiness and positivity which comfortably crosses international boundaries and the most diverse of cultures. Smiles can also influence enormous positive changes in society via the process of mimicry; when we smile, it makes the persons around us want to smile too (Hess & Blairy, 2001, cited in Zhivotovkaya, 2008). [showmyads] But psychologists are beginning to discover that smiles might be able to tell us much more than merely the good stuff we’re experiencing right now. Studies have shown that our smiles might be able to predict certain aspects of our future. Consider these 3 amazing reasons for you to turn that frown upside down:

 

3. Future Happiness

Check your Facebook photos. If you’re not smiling in your pics then you might want to address that problem ASAP. Research conducted on the smile intensity of Facebook photos shows that men and women who displayed bigger smiles on their first-semester Facebook photos reported better social relationships and greater life satisfaction up to three and a half years later. “Controlling for first-semester life satisfaction, the authors also determined that smile intensity was a unique predictor of changes in life satisfaction over time” (Seder & Oishi, 2011, p.1).  In a related study, Harker and Kelter (2001) determined a positive correlation between the smile intensity of women’s college yearbook photos and self-reported future happiness up to thirty years later.

 

2. Marriage Stability

Smile. It might save your marriage. Many psychologists support the theory that smiling behavior in photos is potentially indicative of underlying emotional dispositions that have direct and indirect life consequences (Hertenstein, Hansel, Butts & Hile, 2009). In 2009, Hertenstein and his colleagues conducted two studies to test the degree to which divorce could be predicted by examining the smile intensity of college yearbook and childhood photos. The results showed that smile intensity did predict future divorce, with those who smiled less intensely being more likely to get divorced at some point in their lives.

 

1. Live Longer

This is the kicker. Smiling has been positively correlated with longevity. Researchers Abel and Kruger (2010) examined the photographs of 230 professional baseball players from the Baseball Register of 1952, who made their debuts prior to 1950. The photos were separated into three categories: 1) No smile 2) Partial smile and 3) Full smile. Data from the Baseball Register allowed the experimenters to control for such variables as year of birth, body mass index (BMI), career length, career precocity, marital status and college attendance.  Data for all variables was available for 196 of the original 230 players. There were 46 players who had not died up to June 1, 2009. For those players who had already passed away, the results showed that players who exhibited full, genuine smiles (also known as Duchenne smiles) lived, on average, 7 years longer than players who did not smile at all (Abel & Kruger, 2010).

So go out, have fun, live your life. But whatever you do, always remember to smile for the camera!

References

Abel, E. L., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21(4), 542-544.

Harker, L., & Keltner, D. (2001). Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood [Abstract]. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80(1), 112-124.

Hertenstein, M. J., Hansel, C. A., Butts, A. M. & Hile, S. N., (2009). Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life. Motivation and Emotion, 33(2), 99-105. doi: 10.1007/s11031-009-9124-6

Seder, J. P., & Oishi, S. (2011). Intensity of smiling in facebook photos predicts future life satisfaction [Abstract]. Social Psycholoical and Personality Science. Retrieved January 20, 2012, from http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/10/15/1948550611424968.abstract

Zhivotovkaya, E. (2008, September 27). Smile and others smile with you: Health benefits, emotional contagion and mimicry. Retrieved January 20, 2012, from http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/emiliya-zhivotovskaya/200809271036

Photo courtesy of Samuel Bavido

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  • James Purdy

    What does a big mug shot smile say about a politician, like the famous 2005 mug shot of a beaming former US House Republican leader Tom Delay?

    • http://twitter.com/WhatisPsych What is Psychology?

      Tom Delay has gotten “fake smiles” also called Pan Am smiles, down to an art form. Duchenne smiles are genuine and involve the contraction of the orbicularis oculi which raises the cheeks and crinkles the corner of the eyes, as well as the zygomatic major muscle which raises the corners of the mouth. The raising of the cheeks and the crows feet around the eyes have been associated with smiles that actually have positive emotions behind them. The Pan Am smile that Tom Delay flashes to the camera only involve the upward movement of his lips. He is trying to put on a brave polite face but his eyes betray the fact that he was anything but happy about being carted off to prison. The eyes never lie.