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Smiling -The Meaning, Mystery and Magic of Smiles

Updated on March 9, 2012

Smiling - The Meaning, Mystery, and Magic of a Smile

Smiling - It is a universally human form of communication. A smile has the ability to reach into the depths of another person. Smiling at someone can actually cause an immediate and sometimes involuntary recipricol smile returned from the other person. A smile can evoke powerful emotions in us. It can change our mood and raise our happiness levels. A smile can start a conversation and says so much without saying a word. A smile can change our world. A smile is magical.

With all the science and studies that have been done in modern times, with data from neuroimaging that give us pictures of our brains, with all that is known about evolution and mankind, we do not know why we smile. Smiles are a mystery.

People smile for many reason, only one of them signals happiness. Smiles are a way to hide our emotions, as well as express our emotions. Scientists are not sure if we smile because it is an inborn trait, or it is something we acquired through learning and imitation. What we do know is that smiling can be controlled to manipulate someone else. Smiles can be used as a greeting, as a way of flirting, as a disguise for our real feelings. We smile when something is funny to us, when we like something, and as a way to connect to someone else. It is believed the human beings produce about 50 different types of smiles. Smiles have many meanings.

The Duchenne Smile

There are generally two kinds of smiles, known as the Duchenne smile and the non Duchenne smile. When we smile with our eyes, it is known as a Duchenne smile. The Duchenne smile acquired its name from Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne, a French neurologist, who was the first scientist to study the different ways we smile. He studied people’s emotional expressions by stimulating a variety of facial muscles using electrical currents.

We Smile With Our Whole Face

The non Duchenne smile is a less genuine smile. It is a fake smile , it is more of a polite smile, but that doesn't give you the good feeling associated with a true smile. It is not always easy to distinguish between these two types of smiles but with some practice most people can identify each one of them. The main difference is in the eyes. The Duchenne smile uses the muscles around the eyes. To see if it is a true smile, look at the lines, those tiny wrinkles at corner of a person’s eyes. These muscles are called orbicularis oculi and is the best way to detect a genuine smile from a polite smile. If it is a very big broad smile, these muscles will be used also, so you must look at the skin between the upper eyelid and the eyebrows. That will move ever so slightly down in a true smile, and won’t move in a false smile. It is easy for a person to voluntarily move their lips in a smile form, but it is much harder to make the muscles around the eyes move.

A Smile Has Many Purposes

Smiling does affect our mood and our emotional adjustment to stress. Studies have shown that people who smiled while they were talking about challenges they had adjusted to the difficulties easier. Scientists believe that our mind gets feedback from our muscles that influence how we feel.

Smiling has everything to do with interpersonal interactions. When we are around people who smile, we smile more too. Smiles send nonverbal cuesto other people and we generally respond back. It actually is a social pleasure. We smile to convey messages that help us in social situations, including to attract someone, to show they are trustworthy, and to be friendly.

A smile is a way to get other people to cooperate with us. Those who smile are deemed to be more generous and more extroverted. One study showed that a smile increased a person’s willingness to trust by ten percent. Judges tended to be more lenient for those who smiled than for those who didn’t probably again, the trustworthy factor. When we get embarrassed, we smile to cover our goof ups, perhaps hoping it will get us back in good graces, and it lifts our own mood a little bit.

Smiling Has Many Benefits

Smiling can increase our ability to think better. A 2010 study showed that people who smiled actually helped them gain great insights on tasks that required people to see a bigger picture, not just what was immediately in front of them.

A woman’s smile will attract a man 60% of the time, compared to eye contact which only worked 20% of time. The opposite, studies have shown is not as effective. A man’s smile does not necessarily increase a woman’s attactiveness to them. Smiling waitresses got more tips.

Smiles Are a Universal Expression

In another study, it was found that people who smile live longer. One particular study looked at pictures of baseball players taken in 1952 and found the smiling players outlived the non smilers by 7 years. Smiling has many health benefits just because it reduces our stress hormones and increases our endorphins which elevate our moods and smiles reduce blood pressure. Smiles span through time and across cultures. Culture does influence the frequency of smiles. Russians, it was found smile the least. Americans smile the most, but many are fake smiles too.

Smiling is as Rewarding to Our Brains as Eating Chocolate

When we smile, the pleasure center in our brain gets rewarded in the same way when we eat chocolate. A British scientist found that a single smile generates the same level of brain stimulation as that of 2,000 chocolate candy bars. So how happy can we make ourselves, if we smile and eat chocolate?

Smiling like everything else about people is more complicated than we probably have given thought to. It is a powerful expression that spans across generations. It is gift of warmth and welcoming that we show someone else. It is a gift we give ourselves to better our mood, for a happier disposition, and to gain pleasures that give us all positive rewards.

How Often Do You Smile

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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi One, Thanks for commenting. You made me smile too! : )

    • one2get2no profile image

      Philip Cooper 

      8 years ago from Olney

      A really nice and interesting hub. It certainly made me smile. Thank you. Voted up.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Picadilly, Thanks for reading my hub. I am glad I gave you some info to inform your aunt about. Thanks for your kind comments. Keep smiling!

    • picadilly profile image

      Priscill Anne Alvik 

      8 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

      This was a "Great" article!!! My aunt is always telling me the benefits of hugging, now I can share with her the benefits of smiling! You have graced the masses with the importance of smiling...thank you! Well done!

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Hi Drbj, I am always humbled that you enjoy my hubs, since I am a big fan of yours. It is nice to know I made you smile. :)

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      You know I enjoyed reading this hub, tki, since I am a lifelong devotee of the benefits of humor, laughter and smiling in our lives. I'm smiling now as I read this. Thank you.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks eye say, you made me smile too!

    • eye say profile image

      eye say 

      8 years ago from Canada


      Smile cause this is a good hub!

      Sharing this one is easy :O)

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks Melis for your nice comments. Enjoy your weekend and smile lots!

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 

      8 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      A nice hub to begin the weekend ~ smiling is a great way to reduce stress!


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