Does Smiling Make You Look Older or Younger?
We’ve always believed that smiling makes us look younger, and there’s even some research to help back up the fact that in addition to relieving stress, smiling can make us look younger, too.
However, a recent study has shown that smiling can actually make us look older. So what’s the truth? Well, it’s a little bit of both, but if we look at the science, it’s more true that smiling makes us look younger.
The Science of Smiling and Age
Let’s look at two recent studies that came up with different conclusions on this question. In the first study, researchers found that smiling makes us look younger. They came to that conclusion using a closely controlled experimental design. They created a virtual male face that they then altered to create 8 different age categories.
People were shown these different faces either frowning, smiling, or with neutral expressions. They were asked to rate the faces as either “young” or “old.” Researchers found that smiling faces tended to be rated “young” at higher age categories than neutral faces, while neutral faces were judged to be “old” at the lowest age categories. Researchers concluded that smiling makes faces look younger.
In the second experiment, researchers used actual faces that were either neutral or smiling. People were shown either the smiling picture or the neutral picture of each face and asked to assign a numerical age to the faces. Researchers found that people assigned a higher numerical age to faces that were smiling. Then, in a follow-up, researchers added surprised faces to the mix. These surprised faces were given a lower numerical age than the neutral faces. Researchers concluded that smiling makes us look older because it increases wrinkles in the face.
Smiling Reaches the Heart
So how do we reconcile the findings of these two studies? It seems the secret is in the rating method used by the two studies. In the first study, people were asked to give a holistic measure of age, simply saying whether the face looked “old” or “young,” and in this case, people looked at the smile and associated it with the energy and attitude of youth, so they were more likely to rate a smiling face as young.
In the second study, people were asked to give a numerical value to age. Being asked for this kind of measurement made people latch onto concrete signs of age, such as wrinkles. This caused them to give a smiling face a higher numerical age.
But here’s the kicker: when people in the second study were asked aftewards about their ratings, they remembered the smiling faces as younger, even if they had given them a higher numerical age!
It seems that, no matter what we might think about a person’s numerical age, smiling makes a person look “young” at heart!
How Is Your Smile?
Having an attractive smile is an important asset for personal and professional relationships. An unattractive smile could cost you. If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your smile, cosmetic dentistry can help.