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New study: Smiling makes you look older

Smiling can make a person appear to be two years older, a new study says. A look of surprise, meanwhile, has the opposite effect.

Researchers flashed images of people with smiling, neutral, and surprised expressions. Participants perceived the surprised faces as the youngest and smiling faces the oldest.

“The striking thing was that when we asked participants afterwards about their perceptions, they erroneously recalled that they had identified smiling faces as the youngest ones,” said study co-author Melvyn Goodale of the University of Western Ontario. “They were completely blind to the fact they had ‘aged’ the happy-looking faces. Their perceptions and their beliefs were polar opposites.”

The aging effect of a smile stems from people’s inability to ignore the wrinkles that form around the eyes during smiling, Goodale said. A look of surprise, on the other hand, smoothes any wrinkles, he said.

The results seem counterintuitive to the popular images of smiles in the media, added Goodale.

“We associate smiling with positive values and youth. Think of all the skin-care and toothpaste companies that sell the same idea every day.”

The study by Goodale and Tzvi Ganel from Ben-Gurion University is published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

By: David Beasley Staff Writer

Source: U.S. Geological Survey

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