Don’t Say Chesse! Smiling Makes You Look Older, Says New Study

When you are young, smiling may make you look younger but as you age, it’s not, say researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. As against the ads which repeatedly show smiling face with white teeth, the angry-looking people are perceived younger, they say.

The findings, published in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, show for the first time that people flashing their white teeth are actually perceived as older than those with an angry look, deadpan or surprised expression.

“Popular media promotes the idea that smiling makes you look younger,” says Prof. Tzvi Ganel in BGU’s Department of Psychology. “Look at all of the smiling faces in skincare and dental ads. How many of us post smiling faces on social media?”

In their experiments, the researchers tried to gauge age perception based on facial expressions on 40 BGU students, who were shown images of people and asked to rank them from oldest to youngest.

The researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Western University in Canada conducted a series of experiments intended to gauge age perception based on facial expressions. When 40 students were shown pictures of smiling faces, neutral expressions and surprised looks, they ranked the smiling faces as the oldest. CREDIT:Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

The pictures of smiling faces, neutral expressions and surprised looks were ranked and to their surprise, the participants ranked the smiling faces as the oldest, followed by neutral expressions, and surprised expressions as the youngest.

When asked why they did so, some of them said they had ranked smiling faces as younger than neutral ones but overall the results placed the smiling ones at the least or older in first look.

“Ironic but we discovered that the same person can believe that smiling makes you appear younger and judge smiling faces older than neutral ones,” says Melvyn Goodale, director of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University in Canada, who is a co-author of the study.

The researchers concluded that smiling makes a person look older because of the wrinkle lines that form around the eyes, whereas a surprised face lifts and pulls the skin backward, smoothing out potential age-related wrinkles. That’s the secret! Don’t smile when you are ageing!

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