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The Science of A Smile

Portrait of beautiful girl with perfect smile. Isolated on whiteHow important is your smile in your life?  Much more important than you might realize.

A new book, Lip Service:  Smiles in Life, Death, Trust, Lies, Work, Memory, Sex and Politics, details just how much you use your smile in your daily life, and why your smile–and the smiles of the people you come in contact with–are very much a part of what makes us human.

Author Marianne LaFrance traces the study of smiling and emotion back to the 18th century (Charles Darwin even did some early work in the field), and looks at how a smile is one of our strongest forms of social communication.  Here are some interesting facts about smiling:

1.  We have two smiles–a genuine and a fake one.  Genuine smiles come from emotions, while fake ones are ones we’ve learned to use to mask true feelings.  For example, if someone gives you a gift that you’re not excited about, you’ll smile even though you’re not necessarily happy about it, because you don’t want to hurt the person’s feelings.  It’s advantageous socially for us to utilize “fake” smiles.

2.  In fact, most smiling is social.  When we’re alone, we don’t smile very much.

3.  Some people smile more than others, but it’s not necessarily an indication of happiness.  A person may be very content, but still smile seldom.  A person who’s smiling a lot may be doing it because of anxiety rather than happiness.

4.  You know the old saying that “it takes many muscles to frown but only two to smile?”  It’s sort of true.  A genuine or Duchenne (named after the researcher who discovered it) smile uses primarily two muscles, the obicularis occuli and zygomaticus major.  A non-genuine, or mouth smile may involve others.  And the other muscles may convey conflicting emotions:  You mouth may be smiling, but your eyebrows are showing anger, for example.

5.  What’s the big difference between a genuine smile and a fake or social smile?  The eyes.  The obicularis occuli, the muscle that encircles the eye socket, is involved in the genuine smile.  It’s difficult to use this muscle voluntarily (though some con artists figure it out, which is why they seem so sincere), and it indicates a true emotion.  Also, a genuine smile tends to blossom across the face.  A fake smile tends to snap on or off.

6.  If we’re paying attention, we can usually see the difference between fake and real smiles.

7.  Women smile much more than men.

8.  Dogs really don’t smile, even though they look like they are (the author admits taking a lot of heat on this one).

9.  If a person has a medical condition that prevents them from smiling, they may be distrusted by others, because we’re so used to connecting through this emotion.

10.  In obituaries, more often than any other attribute, people mention the loved one’s smile.

You can learn more from this article on the book in Wired Magazine, or from the book itself.

And, if you’d like for Charlotte Dentistry to help you keep your smile looking its brightest, call us for an appointment.

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…Treat Others As You Would Have Them Treat You … Matthew 7:12