Everywhere you go you see a smile; whether it is on a billboard or person they surround us. But how many of those are genuine smiles? In the essay Why Women Smile by Amy Cunningham it is stated that women are expected to smile at all times and often these smiles are artificial. What is in a smile? Could there be something in a smile’s physiology to help us better understand a person’s motives to smile? Possibly even health benefits. There is more behind a smile than a forced expression, smiles benefit us in several ways and they are real. To better understand why we smile we first have to understand the different smiles.
Here are different types of smiles, which are often grouped into two categories, Duchenne smiles named after Guillaume Duchenne, a 19th century French doctor who analyzed facial expressions, and “Pan Am smiles”, named after the decommissioned airline’s gesture of welcome (John Harlow, The Smile That Says Where You’re from). The Duchenne smile involves the movement of the zygomaticus major muscle near the mouth, and the orbicularis oculi muscle near the eyes (Paul Ekman, Wallace V. Friesen, and Richard J. Davidson, The Duchenne Smile: Emotional Expression and Brain Physiology: II).
It is believed that this smile can only be produced as a result of genuine positive emotion, making it involuntary (Ekman, Friesen,and Davidson). By contrary, the “Pan Am smile” involves only the zygomaticus muscle, and is entirely voluntary, being used more often used to show politeness or mask true emotion (Harlow). This smile only depends on the zygomaticus major corner-tightening muscle and has been known to be called the “Botox smile” because, it leaves the muscles at the corners of the eyes motionless, much like cosmetic treatment (Harlow).
This suggests a partial control we have over the kind of smile we show when it comes to realizing that we need to put a smile on our faces for social approval, but little control over smiling about things that genuinely make us happy. Signs of this can now be seen in the womb changing most beliefs on a smile. “Bona fide social smiles occur at two-and-a-half to three months of age, usually a few weeks after we first start gazing with intense interest into the faces of our parents “(Cunningham). As was stated by Cunningham’s and various doctor’s it was believed that babies learned to smile after birth by copying their mothers.
Since 2001, with the help of a four-dimensional scanner, doctors have been able to see that babies in the womb exhibit facial expressions (BBC, Scanner Shows Unborn Babies Smile). The 4D scanner, which also produces 3D images that move in real time, shows that babies start making finger movements at 15 weeks, yawning at 18 weeks, and smiling, blinking, and crying at 26 weeks. After birth, infants do not usually smile until they are 6 weeks old, creating a further interest to survey the womb and why there is this gap of time where no smiling occurs, perhaps because the infant must adjust to its new, less content surroundings.
This new information on the subject suggests that perhaps smiling is a reflex to positive feelings not an expression picked up through imitation furthering the proof that smiles are real. Still even with the discovery of smiling in the womb, you have to wonder if as we age we no longer feel the spontaneous need to smile. Do circumstances in society force us to keep “our smiles on auto matic pilot? ” (Cunnignham). The Duchenne smile is not obsolete so there must be something that keeps people smiling true smiles several times a day.
This could be from the numerous psychological and physiological health benefits that have been associated with a smile. Remember how you felt when you were stressed out. During this time a few events take place in your body, some in which you cannot control. For example your pulse rate rapidly increases, your digestive system shuts down, blood sugar levels rise, your breathing becomes shallow and accelerated, and your facial expressions change (Natasha Mann, Benefits of Smiling). You may not be able to control the majority of those events, but you can try and calm your breathing and rearrange the muscles in your face.
Smiling alters the emotions you feel and can change how your brain is reacting in that moment (Peter Fisher, Smile Your Stress Away). The effects of smiling do not end there. Along with reducing stress smiling can also lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system (Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, Smile and Others Smile with You: Health Benefits, Emotional Contagion, and Mimicry). It would appear that there beneficial reasons to smile without any expectations. If smiling can improve your health, than there should be a way for smiling to affect others. Smiling is more than just a way to convey happiness.
It was found recently that 72 percent of people those who smile frequently as being more confident and successful (Smile! ). From that same article it was also found that 86 percent would be more willing to talk to a stranger smiling than a stranger with no smile. So far the facts are agreeing with a statement made by Cunningham “A smile lightens the load, diffuses unpleasantness, redistributes nervous tension. ” 12 percent that is how likely a boss will promote someone with a smile. So far smiling makes strangers feel comfortable, bosses more likely to promote you, and overall you appear more confidant and successful.
It sounds like the expectation of a smile is actually a way to make you and everyone around you feel more comfortable, happy, and willing to socialize. It may have been stated by Amy Cunningham that women were expected to smile. While this may be true it is taken out of context. Everyone is expected to smile, even men. It all depends on the situation. In the Sex Differences in Self-Awareness of Smiling During a Mock Job Interview study performed by Julie A. Woodzicka it was found that men wanting to attain power and status that they were less often to smile a Duchenne smile.
This is because men who are content with their status in life or with the amount of wealth and power they posses are relaxed and they do not need to impress anyone anymore, so these men are more likely to produce a natural and true smile. For those still striving to achieve success it is viewed in men a serious look can garner respect rather than a smile which can appear aloof unmotivated. In this same study it was found that women who smiled in an interview were considered confidant and serious in their attempts to garner this job. Those who were not smiling or displayed a “Pan Am” smile were considered insincere and more flirtatious.
Smiles appear to be only expected in certain situations in the working world. Yes women are expected to smile, but men are expected to be more serious in those same situations. The women who are willing to smile during the interview are more likely to get the job and in the future more likely to earn a promotion. Smiles are amazing. With a simple movement of a few facial muscles you can improve yours and other people’s health. A smile can calm someone nervous or frightened. People are more willing to hold a conversation and even help to earn jobs and promotions.
There is more to a smile than an expectation. It is a movement of muscles we are rarely aware we are performing. It is an action since our formation in the womb and not something forced upon us at a young age.. So the next time someone tells you to smile stop and think. They are not trying to force you to smile, they want you to be happy and at ease. As stated by Proffessor Campbell "What's behind the smile, of course, I can't say, but the corners turn up and the cheeks bulge ... I think it must be some indication of contentment in a stress-free environment" (BBC). This is a smile and it is real.