Three Things You Didn’t Know About Smiling

big cheesy smiles

big cheesy smiles

1. Error: Smile invalid. Please try again.

Smile for fun and profit: A Japanese rail company hopes to provide better customer service by training employees to smile more naturally. Every morning, each employee of the Keihin Electric Express Railway Company smiles into a camera attached to a computer that’s running grin analysis software.  Using parameters such as facial wrinkles and lip curl, the program spews smile scores back at them, along with a little helpful advice on how to improve their expression.  Employees can even compete with one another for the title of most superlative smile using battle mode.  (Seriously.)  Fight!

2.  It’s all in the orbicularis.

gray's anatomy eye muscles

Look at anyone’s Flickr stream, and it’s obvious – most humans are pretty grim at faking a smile in pictures and in video.  Sure, we look happy, but it just ain’t the real thing, and, thanks to keen evolutionary instinct, we’re savvy enough to pick up on it.  Here’s why: there’s an involuntary muscle called the orbicularis oculi that encircles the eye socket.  It’s engaged when we smile out of pure emotion.  In “real life” there usually are enough distractions that we might not notice when a smile is insincere, but when we’re looking at a posed smile that’s been frozen in time, we notice that the subject’s not genuinely flexing their orbicularis.

Think you’re good at spotting fake smiles?  Try this test (hosted by the BBC.)

3.  You used to feel like a billionaire.

Why are children the wealthiest people on earth? They employ the power of the smile.  Ron Gutman, gelotologist (that’s the study of smiles, laughter, and humor,) explains in the video (embedded below) that smiling is rewarding – really rewarding. British researchers have noted that smiling releases enough neurochemicals to make the brain feel as happy as if you’ve consumed 2,000 bars of chocolate, or received about $25,000 in cash.  Children are spontaneous and prolific smilers, grinning up to 400 times a day, which makes them feel – literally – like they’ve got a billion bucks.

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