It’s true. Smiling – even when you’re feeling blue – can boost your mood. That’s because people have special ‘smile muscles.’ Those muscles send a message to your brain that you’re happy – and even if you’re faking it – your brain will believe it! Even holding a pencil between your teeth works to activate the chemicals in your brain that register happiness. That’s not the only fascinating fact about the power of a smile:
- For example, even a hint of a smile can have a big impact. Researchers studied so-called “micro-smiles” that last four-hundredths of a second – so short they don’t even register in your conscious mind. They can still produce a mini emotional high in others. In fact, volunteers who didn’t remember seeing a micro-smile found boring material more interesting, average photos more artistic, and said bland food tasted better. Their own faces subconsciously “mirrored” the smile that flashed by too fast to see.
- Next: Real, smiles are different from fake ones. Researchers found that fake smiles appear instantly, and stay put. They’re also about 10 times bigger than spontaneous smiles, probably because they’re meant to be seen. While a genuine smile appears more slowly and gradually.
- Keep that in mind when you think someone’s lying to you. Experts say that liars don’t smile more often than people telling the truth, but their smiles are more manufactured. They smile to distract you from the fact that they’re trying to pull the wool over your eyes.
- That’s because people who smile are perceived as more trustworthy. Volunteers were asked to decide whether a student was guilty of cheating. They were shown a picture of the student either smiling, or with a neutral expression. The result: Almost all the volunteers decided she was guilty, but those who’d seen the smiling photo thought she should be given a second chance.