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Why We Smile - Research, Society
Why We Smile - Research, Society

Video: Why We Smile - Research, Society

Video: Why We Smile - Research, Society
Video: The Psychology of a Smile | Ryan Lowe | TEDxSugarLand 2023, March

Smiling is one of the most natural human actions. Newborns smile spontaneously, a kind of reflex muscle contraction that parents often misinterpret. It seems to them that the child recognizes and welcomes them in this way, and yet children under six or eight weeks are not yet capable of socially conditioned reactions. It is the special importance that parents attach to a simple physical act that makes it a meaningful action - a smile

From the point of view of physiology, a smile is the work of the circular muscle of the mouth and seventeen pairs of facial muscles that are responsible for facial expressions. When the urge to smile arises, the brain sends a signal along the sixth and seventh cranial nerves, which branch out on both sides of the face from the eyebrows to the chin. These, in turn, are connected to a combination of muscles that control the lips, nose, eyes, and forehead.

In culture, this is a long way from archaic grins of Greek kouros to modern emojis. In 2015, the laughing smiley with tears of joy was declared the "word of the year" by the Oxford Dictionary. And as this emoji expresses more than just happiness (tears add some ambiguity), so the human smile is unusually multifaceted.

In 2016, the journal "Non-Verbal Behavior" published the results of a large-scale study in which thousands of people from different countries took part. The participants were offered eight photographs, which showed four faces with a smile and four without. When evaluating who in the photo inspires more confidence, people more often chose cheerful faces than gloomy ones. However, representatives from different countries produced markedly different results.

For example, residents of Switzerland, Australia, and the Philippines tended to trust smiling people more than participants from Pakistan, Russia, and France. And subjects from India, Iran and Zimbabwe did not highlight the smiling photos at all. The researchers suggested that this may be related to the level of corruption in the respondent's country of residence. The higher the corruption, the higher the participant's suspicion and the less confidence in the smiles in the photo.

In the Old Testament in the Book of Job, only one smile is directly mentioned, but at the same time it constantly speaks of a special "radiance" of the face as a sign of a person who has cognized grace. In Eastern religions, a smile is a symbol of enlightenment. The Buddha is often depicted with a serene smile on his face, although there is not a word about this in the texts.

There are various diseases in which the ability to smile is lost partially or completely. For example, facial paralysis after a stroke or Moebius syndrome. The inability to fully smile and frown is like putting a mask on a person, which makes it extremely difficult for him to communicate with others. Roland Bienvenu, 67, who suffers from Moebius syndrome, describes his experience: “I cannot smile and people around me often perceive me incorrectly. I literally read their thoughts: “What's wrong with him? Did he have an accident? " They doubt my intellectual abilities, think that my head is not all right, because I always have a special absent expression on my face. " It is difficult to be socially included if facial expressions prevent others from reading non-verbal information.

A crooked smile complicates communication as much as its complete absence. “Although I am only half a smile, I have learned to convey my emotions,” writes Dawn Sean, born with a rapidly growing tumor that blocks the trachea. “The hardest thing was to see myself in the photo where I was smiling, because there you can see especially that half of my face is paralyzed. But I was able to accept myself for who I am. Yes it's me. This is how I look."

Losing a smile is a serious challenge at any age. This is especially difficult for young people who are just beginning to form their social circle. “This is a huge problem,” says Tami Konechen, head of the occupational therapy department at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia. When you look at someone, the first thing you notice is a face and a smile. If you do not have facial expressions, it makes it very difficult to establish communication with others, especially at a young age. There were children in the department who applied a photo editor to their photos. They just mirrored their "working" side of the smile before uploading photos to social media."

In 1934, the father of modern plastic surgery, Harold Gillis wrote that restoring a smile helped his patients "feel much more comfortable." And he noted the significant psychological effect of such operations.

Charles Darwin also emphasized the importance and value of smiles in his historical study of 1872 "Expression of emotions in humans and animals": "A smile can be considered the first stage in the development of laughter." He closely watched his children and discovered the first smiles as early as the sixth week in two, and a little earlier in the third. He described different shades of emotions that a smile conveys - not only happiness, but also mockery, sardonic notes, falsehood. He showed photographs of smiles to his colleagues to hear their interpretations of their meaning.

Scientific research finds differences in gender (women tend to smile more) and culture. Smiles are definitely associated with communication - people smile more when they are in public than alone, and more when interacting with others than when not.

Scientists agree that smiles are much easier to recognize than other facial expressions. But it is still not known why. “We can recognize smiles very well,” says Alexi Martinez, a professor in the Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering at Ohio State University. - Why is this so? No one can answer this question right now. We do not know. We really don't know. Let's take a classic experiment where photos of different facial expressions are shown. We showed them very quickly … 10 milliseconds, 20 milliseconds. I can show you one image in just 10 milliseconds and you can tell it is a smile. It doesn't work with any other facial expressions. " Fear is defined in 250 milliseconds, 25 times more than a smile “which makes absolutely no sense, evolutionarily speaking,” notes Martinez."After all, recognizing fear is fundamental to survival, while smiling … But that's the way we are." Research has also shown that smiling faces are rated "safer" than neutral faces.

Although scientists have studied this issue for 150 years, they are still at the stage of trying to classify the types of smiles among the millions of possible facial expressions. “One of the fundamental questions in the scientific literature right now is how many facial expressions do we really have? Says Martinez. "Nobody knows for sure."

Some scientists argue that facial expressions are what we inherited from the pre-lingual period of human life. Human language began to form as early as 100,000 years ago, and, most likely, facial expressions as a means of communication originated long before the appearance of man as a species.

“Before we could speak, we had to communicate with grimaces,” Martinez says. “According to one hypothesis, language is the result of the evolution of ways of expressing emotions through facial expressions,” he says. “First, we learned to move our facial muscles in a special way to show:“I'm happy. I feel good with you. I'm angry. I feel disgusted. " Gradually, the grammar of facial expressions developed, which over time evolved into what we now call language.

So when wondering how something as complex as language came into being out of nothing, rest assured - it almost certainly started with a smile.

Translated by Tatiana Gulyaeva

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