Everyone loves a great smile. Dazzling white grins are used in advertisements to sell everything from toothpaste، to tampons and herpes medication. But while those pearly whites might make you more attractive، they don’t make you appear younger، according to researchers from Western University in Ottawa، Canada.
Published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review، the study looked at the impact of facial expressions on perceived age. Participants viewed images of 70 men and women، who were photographed with a positive and neutral expression، for a total of 140 pictures. They were instructed to guess how old each face was.
After the experiment، subjects were asked whether smiling generally made someone look older، younger or had no impact on age. The findings showed that people frequently thought the happy folks were older، even though participants said they believed smiling made people appear more youthful.
"The striking thing was that when we asked participants afterwards about their perceptions، they erroneously recalled that they had identified smiling faces as the youngest ones،" says study co-author Melvyn Goodale of Western University، in a statement. "They were completely blind to the fact they had 'aged' the happy-looking faces. Their perceptions and their beliefs were polar opposites."
In a second part of the study، the team replicated the first experiment but threw in a third expression: Surprise. Again، people guessed that those sporting smiles were older، however، this time، people wearing shocked expressions appeared to be the youngest.
Goodman says the wrinkles formed around the eyes can be blamed for aging us when we smile. Alternatively، when we appear shocked، those lines smooth out، which is why we might seem younger after learning surprising news، like after hearing Brangelina was no more.
However، that doesn’t mean you should give up your happy demeanor just to appear more youthful. The study is very small، consisting of 40 college students whose mean age is 24 years old. Plus، grinning is good for your health. A study from the University of Kansas in 2012 showed that beaming after a stressful event can help your heart recover more quickly، which researchers believe will keep you healthy later in life. It’s been proven time and again that forcing yourself to smile، even when you don’t want to، can boost your mood. And another study showed that smiling does in fact make someone more attractive، if you’re a woman.
“Our thinking is that smiling probably makes women look more feminine، which increases female attractiveness،” Jessica Tracy، PhD، an associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia، tells Everyday Health. “Another possibility is that smiling makes women appear receptive (sexually)، which، of course، is appealing to men.”
So while it may not shave years off your face، smiling can definitely make you happier، healthier and get you a date.