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Researchers Say You Smile Back to Understand the Expression

We all know that smiles are contagious. Go into a room of frowning people and give ‘em a big smile and see what happens: they all smile back. It’s very hard to resist smiling back when someone smiles at you, and now researchers think they understand why: you smile back to someone because that’s how your brain understands what a smile means.

A Simulated Smile Gives Insight

Interpreting facial expressions is one of the brain’s most challenging tasks. Human facial expressions are complex, and the brain has to process them quickly. To help do this, it employs an interesting technique: it simulates the expression.

When you see someone making an expression, your brain begins searching its memory for what the expression could mean, but it also initiates a simulation of the expression, which helps your brain understand the emotion.

How does a simulated expression help your brain figure out the emotion? Partly, the emotion is triggered by your facial muscles. The formation of a smile doesn’t just respond to happiness, it triggers happiness. So when you simulate a smile and get the feedback in your brain that includes happy emotions, your brain can piece together: this person is smiling. Smiling makes me happy. Probably they’re happy, too.

And it’s probably this rewarding happiness that makes smiles more contagious than other expressions. When your brain goes through the simulation process, it probably gets a jolt of hormones that makes it feel happy. This pleasurable happiness stimulates a larger smile, which gives more happiness, turning a simulated smile into a genuine one.

Smiling Is an Essential Social Tool

Because of this positive reinforcing feedback, smiling has become an essential part of almost any social interaction. For example, smiles are vital to defuse tense moments. They help us overcome the stress of first introductions and especially first dates.

But smiles are even more vital during job interviews. When you smile during your job interview, you induce the people across the table to smile. And when they do, they feel a positive sensation that they then associate with you. This is why having a ready smile is vital to getting a job.

And even once you have a job or are in a steady relationship, smiling remains vital. Smiling shows your boss that you’re engaged in your work and helps you work well with coworkers, both of which help you get promoted. And in a relationship, smiling regularly helps your partner feel valued and welcome. It reassures them that you are happy and engaged in your relationship.

Do You Feel Free to Smile?

But for many of us, turning on a smile is not as easy as we would like. Instead, we’re prevented from smiling because of how nervous we are about the appearance of our teeth.

But that doesn’t have to be a barrier. No matter what is the current condition of your smile, you , too, can have a beautiful smile that you’ll want to share with confidence.

To learn more about how a smile makeover in Columbus could help you, please call (614) 848-5001 for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at the Center for Family & Cosmetic Dentistry.