Thanks to several studies on the power of the smile that were carried out in different parts of the world, today we know that smiling is not enough; the smile must also be sincere and reflect genuine feelings.
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Smiling is an exclusively human capacity, although we sometimes insist on seeing smiles on cats, dogs or elephants. Furthermore, it is an expression that makes a big impact. The proof of this is that there have been several studies on the power of the smile, and almost all have come to the same conclusion.
In addition to science having conducted studies on the power of the smile, anyone can take a test in their daily life to draw their own conclusions.
For example, try asking someone a favor with a serious expression and then do the same, but smiling. See if there are any changes.
We all place more trust in those who smile. There are unconscious mechanisms that allow us to detect whether someone smiles sincerely or not. If the gesture is not genuine, it has the opposite effect: we are suspicious.
This is what the studies on the power of the smile prove. Let’s look at three of them.
“Each smile makes you a younger day”.
– Chinese proverb –
1. “Social glue”, one of the studies on the power of the smile
One of the most interesting studies on the power of the smile was carried out by scientist Ron Gutman, who studied the subject for several years. The results of his research were published in Forbes magazine, in an article called The Untapped Power Of Smiling.
This study found something remarkable. They placed a young monkey next to two people. One was smiling and the other was not. The little animal approached the smiling one. The test was repeated several times and the same thing always happened. Something similar occurs among humans.
The article reviews a study carried out at the University of Upssala, Sweden, on the reactions generated by different facial expressions. It was concluded that people who smile tend to spread their good mood.
It was proposed, then, that “the smile is evolutionarily contagious”. Therefore, the smile helps to bring people together and acts as a “social glue”.
2. The smile generates a greater memory
Another of the studies on the power of the smile was carried out at Duke University (United States). Fifty volunteers were invited to interact with an imaginary travel agency attendant.
Some were attended by a woman who remained serious, others by one who looked sad, and the rest by a smiling woman.
In the end, everyone who interacted with the smiling woman said they were more attracted to the business in question and said they were more motivated to do business with her again.
The same scientists established that, in front of a smiling person, the orbitofrontal cortex is activated , an area of the brain related to gratification.
Likewise, it was found that the smiling face generated greater memory. When we have a rewarding experience, we tend to record it more clearly in our memory. Likewise, we tend to be more open to requests made by people who smile.
3. Fake smiles don’t help much
In 1980, German psychologist Fritz Strack of the University of Würzburg conducted another study on the power of the smile. Although he used a poor methodology, the results of his study became very popular.
They said that if a person is sad or moody and forces himself to smile, even if it is falsely, his mood tends to improve.
However, 17 other researchers, from different parts of the world, wanted to replicate the Strack experiment, but obtained unclear results.
Thus, researcher Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, from the University of Amsterdam, decided to do a deeper study to analyze in detail the subject in question.
The survey was carried out with 1,894 people and a highly rigorous method. In the end, he concluded that there is no reason to believe that forcing a smile improves a person’s mood. In fact, basically no subjective changes were detected when ‘smiling without will’.
All of this allows us to say that the smile is not just a facial expression. However, it must be accompanied by a real feeling to be effective. We can look for stimuli that allow us to smile, and then our mood will change significantly.