(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Don’t say “Cheese!” when you’re photographed anymore. If you want to look younger to people around you, don’t smile – instead, show a look of surprise. Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Western University of Canada have proven scientifically that the wrinkles created around the eyes by smiling at any age makes one look older, but a look of surprise tightens them up.
In the study, just published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, the researchers showed for the first time that people who smile are perceived as around two years older than those with a deadpan or surprised expression.
“Popular media promotes the idea that smiling makes you look younger,” says Prof. Tzvi Ganel, head of the BGU psychology department’s laboratory for visual perception and action. Look at all of the smiling faces in skincare and dental ads. How many of us post smiling faces on social media?” The researchers believe that smiling makes a person look older because of the wrinkle lines that form around the eyes, but a surprised face lifts and pulls the skin backward, smoothing any age-related wrinkles.
The researchers, including BGU’s Tzvi Ganel, conducted a series of experiments intended to assess age perception based on facial expressions.
Forty BGU student participants were shown images of people and asked to rank them from oldest to youngest. They were shown pictures of smiling faces, neutral expressions and surprised looks.
The participants ranked the smiling faces as the oldest, followed by neutral expressions, and surprised expressions as the youngest.
When asked to recall their reactions after the experiment, the participants erroneously remembered identifying smiling faces as being younger than neutral ones.
“We associate smiling with positive values and youth,” said study co-author Melvyn Goodale, director of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University in London, Ontario. “Think of all the skin-care and toothpaste companies that sell the same idea every day.”
“Ironically, we discovered that the same person can believe that smiling makes you appear younger and judge smiling faces older than neutral ones,” he said. “It may seem counter-intuitive, but the study shows that people can sincerely believe one thing and then behave in a completely different way.”
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