BY: DANIEL PETERSON
If we were to believe lipstick and toothpaste commercials, a big grin could make one look years younger, more approachable, and more attractive. While the last two may be true, new research suggests that: smiling can actually make you appear older.
For the new study, published in the ‘Psychonomic Bulletin and Review,’ Journal, scientists requested volunteers to rate the ages of men and women in photographs—which were flashed across a screen—with either smiling, surprised or neutral expressions. The research authors wanted to know if smiling people would be perceived as being younger than they actually were because people tend to associate smiling with positive values, youth, and happiness. But that isn’t what happened.
On average, the research participants guessed that the smiling-individuals on the screen were 2-years older than the people whose image had a straight poker face. They rated individuals with surprised expressions—such as an open mouth and wide eyes— as the youngest of all. The scholars believe that is because smiling causes wrinkles around a one’s eyes, while a surprised look stretches and smoothens your skin.
As far as these scientific results go, this certainly isn’t good news. Wait! Before you change that profile picture of yours or refusing to smile in social situations, remember, it’s just 1-study. In fact, a 2012 research found the contrary: that individuals tended to underestimate ages of guys with happy expressions, unlike neutral ones.
And you know what? Who cares? We would rather show off our “smile lines”—and our personality—than walk around with a zombie look in an attempt to eliminate several years from our face.
Mel Goodale, Ph.D.–Study co-author and Western University’s director of the Brain and Mind Institute, feels the same way. “I don’t think that I’ve any advice to give individuals who intent to appear younger,” he said. “We are only talking about 1- or 2-years here anyway.”
“I think it’s perhaps more essential in many situations to appear welcoming, friendly, and happy—which smiling certainly assists in accomplishing, although it might make you look slightly older,” Goodale adds.
When asked what they knew of the general effect of facial expression on age perception—33 out of 40 study participants stated that they believed smiling makes people look younger.
So we say smile away, and let wrinkles be damned. Even if you are viewed as some years older, guys may actually look back and recall you as being more youthful in the long run. No matter the study outcomes, people will certainly view you in a more positive light—and therefore we don’t need a research to tell us that.
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