Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Hidden Power of Smiling

I'm like most people, I find it difficult to spot a fake smile. Scientists suggest that it's easier for people to get along when they don't know what other people are really feeling. I like to think I just have a tendency to look for the good in people.

Even though fake smiles are similar to genuine smiles, they're actually slightly different when you look at the different muscles used to produce the smile. These muscles in turn are controlled by different parts of the brain. 

Most everyone can produce a fake smile at will. The brain prompts the zygomaticus major muscles in the cheeks to contract (these are the muscles that pull the corners of the mouth outwards producing a smile). 


Genuine smiles, on the other hand, are generated by the unconscious portion of the brain. When we're happy or when we feel pleasure, signals pass through the emotional processing portion of the brain. In addition to contracting the zygomaticus major muscles producing a smile, the orbicularis oculi and the pars obitalis also contract, making the eyes crease up, and the eyebrows slightly dip downward.


Most of the time I think I can spot a fake smile. Even if someone can emulate a genuine smile, there are still signs that can distinguish whether or not it truly is. When a smile is genuine, the eye cover folds, moves slightly downward, and causes the eyebrows to dip.  Again, look to the eyes...

Scientists distinguish between genuine and fake smiles by using a coding system called the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), which was devised by Professor Paul Ekman of the University of California and Dr. Wallace V. Friesen of the University of Kentucky. 

The Truth is Written All Over Our Faces...

Apart from trying to decipher whether someone is lying or not, the way I see it, a fake or genuine smile isn't for me to judge. I'll always think it's nice to greet others with a smile. If others have to "fake it till they make it" so be it. I applaud anyone who tries! 

If you haven't already come across this TED Speaks presentation by Ron Gutman, invest 7 minutes to listen to some potential health benefits of smiling.

According to Ron Gutman, the wider the smile, the longer you live...

I'm living forever!

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