How Real Are Our Smiles?

Smiling is one of the most powerful means of transmission of happiness and trust for the human species. Smiling is an action on which research is still ongoing in the evolutionary process of human, a social being. Smiling can be the reflection of many different feelings in daily life. In this sense, a smile can be expressed as a reflection of emotions such as anger, embarrassment, fear, and surprise, and this shows that not every smile is an expression of happiness. This situation shows that every smile we encounter may have a different meaning and may not be an expression of a true emotion. Biologists and psychologists / neurologists have been researching the origin and function of smiling for years.

Smiling is an action that is highly important in almost every culture and evaluated in many different contexts. The first name that discusses laughing behavior in detail is the famous biologist Charles Darwin. Darwin treated laughter as a whole in human facial expressions and studied these expressions in a universal research sample. Darwin did not limit his studies to humans and evaluated animals in terms of similar behavior. He published his research as a voluminous book titled “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals” in 1872. In this work, Darwin stated that laughing behavior is a behavior that belongs to social creatures occurring in the evolutionary process. While Darwin considered facial expressions as a whole, the French neurophysiologist Guillaumme-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne, who followed his path, focused solely on laughing. Duchenne took Darwin’s work to the next level and set out to investigate it with bold experiments.

What is the Duhenne Smile?

The neurophysiologist Guillaumme-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne, after numerous experiments, determined the definitive difference between natural laughing behavior and unnatural laughing behavior. This smile is mainly manifested by the contraction of the “Orbicularis oculi”, which are the muscle groups around the eyes, in the eye area. This twitching and twisting, also called crow’s feet, is a real and natural smile that comes directly from the brain and is very difficult to imitate. So to speak, this smile is the smile expressed in our culture by saying “the inside of your eyes is laughing”. The false smile is a false smile that is deliberately produced by the contraction of the “Zygomatic Major” muscles in the cheeks. While the muscles in the rim are contracting upwards, the lips are accompanied by this and the ends are curved upwards. This is the smile many of us make in everyday life to acknowledge or please the other with various worries. This type of smile is known among psychologists as the “Pan Am smile”. This smile, which America’s giant airline company Pan Am obliged to all its hostesses, has become so clichéd and widespread over time that it is now mentioned with this name.

In summary, the shortest and clearest way to distinguish a real smile from a fake smile is to look at the corners of the eyes. If the corners of the eyes are wrinkled and squinted, we can say that that smile is a sincere, natural and real smile.

Duchenne’s Smile Experiments

Duchenne has also conducted numerous experiments to reveal this smile known by her name. Duchenne was brutally criticized by many for the fact that in these experiments the muscles in the faces of the participants were electrified. However, Duchenne stated that, in these experiments, he mostly selected people with numbness of the muscles in their faces, so the subjects in question did not suffer from an angle, and that they were almost as comfortable working on a cadaver when working with these people. Duchenne was telling funny jokes in the experiments and looking at which muscles were working. If the subject was really laughing because a situation was funny, the Orbicularis oculi muscles were definitely contracting as well as other muscles in the face. When the electricity was applied and the subject was laughing, only the following muscle groups were working:

* Levator anguli oris

* Zygomaticus major and minor.

* Risorius.

* Levator labii superioris.

During the Duchenne studies, she found that 12 muscle groups worked during a real laugh and 11 muscle groups during sulking. Not only the shape of a real laugh was different, but the command center was also different. The real and natural laughing behavior was initiated and controlled from the limbic system, which is the emotional center of the brain. In contrast, the fake smile, the Pan Am smile, was initiated by the part of the brain called the motor cortex. Again, another unusual aspect of smiling related to muscles is the power of muscles to affect our emotions. It has been observed that when we consciously tighten the muscles around the eyes during the day, this has surprisingly positive effects on our mood. In subsequent research, it was understood that Duchenne used prisoners in prisons. Duchenne collected all these works in her work titled “The Mechanism of Human Facial Expresssions”.

The Place and Function of Laughing in Human Life

Studies have shown that babies between 1 and 5 months respond with laughing behavior in response to human faces and voices. Laughter is not just a mood expression for us humans; It is also a trust and relationship building signal. Experiments have shown that kindergarten children show more sympathy to people who laugh at them, and they feel more comfortable in the face of laughing behavior. It is known that laughter is used in the education of autistic children today.

The function of laughter for humans is two-dimensional. In this respect, laughing has the feature of being both a reflection and a source of feelings such as joy and happiness. Naturally, when we see someone laughing, we automatically awaken comforting feelings. This fact is the main reason why almost all business enterprises have made laughing behavior a compulsory act for their employees recently. Because the customer, who feels comfortable in an environment with smiling people, easily overcomes his hesitations and fears in terms of purchasing behavior.

The Effect of Real Laughing on Character

Studies have shown that people who exhibit Duchenne smile more often are more likely to be successful in life than those who display false smiles. In a long-term experiment conducted on a group of college students in California, it has been observed that young people who exhibit a sincere and natural smile more often or who give a place to it in their lives are more successful in business life and their marriages are happier and unproblematic.


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