Karan Verma

Views expressed here are mine alone

Say ‘Cheese’, save your marriage & extend your life – all it takes is a smile!

Say ‘Cheese’, save your marriage & extend your life – all it takes is a smile!

The four researchers started off with a simple premise: A smiling persona (or lack of it) captured on camera, potentially indicates a basic emotional propensity of the person. And so, they reckoned, it might have direct or indirect consequences on life events. But even they must not have been mentally geared to find the startling results they found – that the intensity of your smile in photographs during early schooling life can predict if you’ll get divorced 15 or 20 years later!

In 2009, these four researchers at DePauw University (Greencastle, USA) published a paper in Springer Science Media. The title said it all: “Smile Intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life”. In one study, they looked at all the yearbook photographs of a few hundred volunteers from age 28 to 87 and ‘coded’ the intensity of smile of each of the participants in each photograph. They also obtained data on present and past relationships – whether the participant was ever married & if so, whether got divorced later or not. The results were statistically clear: The less intensely a participant smiled in his schoolbook photograph, the more likely was he to be divorced in later life. A second study with wider range of photographs clicked across the years and in differing contexts (including school, family & wedding snaps) reinforced the same conclusion.

Think of the implications. Most of us would tend to believe that the intensity of our smile for a posed photograph is a completely random event, dependent on transient & contextual factors, such as how we were feeling that day, whether the sun was shining into our eyes, or how ready we were when the photographer decided to ‘click’. Almost none of us would seriously consider that this could be a predictor of any life-altering events in our life.
And yet, this & other such studies speak differently. It seems that these ‘random’, frozen moments in time aren’t that random at all! Collectively, they represent ‘ThinSlice’ (click here) data points of who we really are – what our fundamental disposition towards life is. Positive emotion in photographs is perhaps an index of long-enduring, subconscious emotional tendencies that are so powerfully wired into our persona that they survive for life. If so, then should it really be that surprising that out enduring emotional beliefs & orientation, which are expected to influence our behavior, do end up actively shaping the nature and quality of interactions we have with our spouse?

A smile is contagious. Smiles evolved so that we could have an easy, universally understandable way to show other people our happiness in being around them, to indicate our approval and agreement with what they are saying or doing, Is it any wonder, then, that smiles build bonds? (And perpetual frowns break them!)

And so, if a smile reflects a perpetually happy disposition, how can one stay unaffected? How easy is it to stay angry with a spouse who, in the middle of an argument, starts smiling and remarks how pretty you’re looking with that cute frown on your brow! You get the picture.

In yet another similar paper published in Psychological Science Onlinefirst in Feb 2010, two researchers showed that smile intensity in photographs can also predict longevity!

Don’t take your smile for granted. It is, of course true, that if you are a person of happy disposition, you’re more likely to smile. But psychologists have also found physiological evidence to prove that if you force yourself to smile, you WILL yourself into feeling happier! The brain affects the body, but the opposite is also true – by controlling your behavior & facial expressions, you can change how your brain feels! Smiling willfully has shown to reduce the levels of stress hormone (cortisol), & promote a build-up of ‘happy biochemical’ (dopamine), creating a sense of well-being.

So, what are you waiting for? Go rush & check out your spouse’s FB snaps (& yours too!).
And yes, Keep Smiling: your marriage….. & your very life depends on it! 
(Tell me what you think)


One comment on “Say ‘Cheese’, save your marriage & extend your life – all it takes is a smile!

  1. Cyrus
    August 3, 2013

    Thanks for that Karan. Will try to smile more 🙂

    Hear that you are doing awesome work in US.


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This entry was posted on August 2, 2013 by in NeuroScience and tagged , , .
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