The Science Behind a Genuine AM Smile - How It Influences Others

Smile AM

An AM Smile is an invaluable communication cue that builds trust, likability, and attractiveness while strengthening business and personal relationships. Studies have also shown it increases receptivity while simultaneously decreasing stress, pain and anger levels.

Researchers conducted one experiment in which they used manipulation of social need to induce feelings of rejection immediately, then measured participants' ability to differentiate genuine smiles from polite ones.

Authenticity to Impact: Sharing Genuine Smiles

An AM smile expresses joy, kindness and an eagerness to engage with others - emotions the English language offers many words for but nothing quite matches up to a genuine smile in terms of impactful expression.

Real smiles release a chemical cocktail of feel-good hormones that elevate mood and provide a sense of well-being, while fake ones don't trigger this same release of feel-good chemicals, thus appearing less authentic to those around them. Furthermore, an artificial smile is easier for our brains to detect than one that's genuine.

While some individuals possess the natural ability to smile at just about anything, most of us must practice cultivating genuine smiles through practice and self-awareness. And that's okay - studies have repeatedly demonstrated the superiority of genuine over forced or fake smiles in creating genuine connections with other people.

If you want to increase your ability to generate and respond with genuine smiles, it may help to think about things that bring joy - such as childhood memories, videos of laughing animals or sentimental items such as graduation caps or wedding bands. Negative or sad memories should also be avoided in order to maintain genuine smiles.

Another way to differentiate a genuine from a fake smile is the presence or absence of movement in the muscle surrounding the eyes (known as orbicularis oculi or FACS AU 6). When someone smiles genuinely, this muscle contracts creating crinkled corners in their mouth while in fake smiles it does not contract as often creating wrinkles along the corners of their mouth and creating that "crinkle effect" seen with genuine ones.

Some researchers believe that smiles serve a social function, such as advertising altruism. One study discovered that participants who were asked to contribute part of their test fee displayed more Duchenne smiles than those given neutral tasks. Furthermore, in 2013 it was observed that when people attempted to lie their facial muscles showed evidence of disgust, fear or contempt related muscle contractions--suggesting they weren't being entirely truthful with what they said they were telling the truth about.

The Power of a Genuine AM Smile: Impacting Others

Smiling has long been considered contagious. Smiling people tend to be perceived as more approachable and reliable. Furthermore, smiling has a profoundly positive effect on one's mood and may help to reduce anxiety or blood pressure levels.

Duchenne de Boulogne conducted an experiment in the 17th century using electrical probes on facial muscles to ascertain what constitutes an authentic smile. He found that although engaging the muscles surrounding your mouth can produce a smile, true joy comes from engaging both those surrounding your eyes as well. This phenomenon, known as the Duchenne marker, gives genuine smiles their distinct look. An upturned mouth causes cheek muscles to smile while eyes crinkle - something lacking from fake smiles which typically only involve lips.

Researchers have discovered that while smiling is universally understood as a sign of happiness, different smiles convey different emotions and vary greatly in terms of trustworthiness. Authentic, "Duchenne" smiles tend to inspire the most positive feelings from others while creating better customer service experiences and higher tips whereas fake or insincere smiles often signal dissatisfaction or indifference from customers.

Smiles vary in intensity, with some people appearing to smile too much or too little. Overly intense or "Duchenne" smiles may signal falsehood, insincerity, or dishonesty; polite non-Duchenne smiles or frowns serve more as social conventions to indicate politeness; these types of frowns and smiles may even be reserved for loved ones in certain cultures.

Smiling can be challenging in stressful environments. Research has demonstrated that when people try to smile genuinely, it may feel awkward or even uncomfortable; however, there are ways you can practice and become more comfortable with genuine smiling. One such technique is recalling happy memories to relax and feel at ease, or mimicking someone's genuine smile as another means.

The Science of Smiling: Influence on People

An AM Smile can help elevate our mood and provide us with a physiological "feel good." Even when we may not feel happy ourselves, simply forcing a smile activates certain brain circuits to make you appear happier. Additionally, genuine smiles release serotonin and dopamine from our brains which enhance resistance against stress while creating an overall sense of wellbeing in us all.

Smiling can have an enormously positive effect on those around us, whether or not they're aware of our emotions. A recent study published in Psychological Science discovered that when participants saw photos with faces displaying genuine joyous expressions, more participants were inclined to copy those expressions - the brain region responsible for joy triggers imitation responses as part of its reaction mechanism, leading to what's known as social contagion: spreading happiness from person to person.

LeeAnne Harker and Dacher Keltner from UC Berkeley psychologists have taken this idea a step further by asserting that one's intensity of smile can predict future life outcomes. Using a computer program to rate students' smile width in college yearbook photos, then comparing that data with personality data collected during interviews conducted at age 21, they discovered that women who displayed widening smiles displayed better health, greater life satisfaction, and had more satisfying marriages at age 52 compared with those displaying narrower smiles in yearbook photos.

However, the chicken-and-egg question still stands: does smiling cause or mirror feelings of happiness? To address this question, researchers like Ekman have had subjects watch a series of positive and negative videos while their facial muscles were recorded. For instance, in Duchenne smile videos the outer portion of the muscle that orbits the eye (Orbicularis Oculi Pars Lateralis in scientific terms) contracts, making your eyes "crinkle up." A fake smile lacks this contraction and can be detected by narrowing of the mouth or similar signs.

Not everyone is capable of producing a Duchenne smile instantly -- only about 20 percent of the population can do this -- yet even those unable to produce one can reap its benefits: A study published in Evolution and Human Behavior discovered that those unable to produce genuine Duchenne smiles during emergencies were significantly less likely to be rescued than their counterparts who could smile more widely.

Genuine AM Smile in Communication: Beyond Words

Smiles are one of the most universally understood gestures in human communication, yet many of us underestimate its impact. Smiling may bring physical and psychological benefits such as increasing dopamine levels or mitigating pain; plus it can serve as an effective means to show empathy or compassion and increase social interactions.

Psychologists have long agreed that genuine smiles (known as "Duchenne") reflect true joy and can be recognized through crinkled eyes and upturned lips. Furthermore, people can detect fake smiles easily.

Researchers have recently found that reality can be far more complicated. In 2009, scientists at San Francisco State University tracked 4,800 photos showing different expressions on people and captured precise muscular coordinates for them; they then observed that while people can produce various facial expressions, some are more likely to be taken seriously than others.

These "true enjoyment" smiles were defined as an expression that involved contracting the orbicularis oculi muscle to make this unique form of smile visible, distinguishable from other varieties. Typically accompanied with emotions like joy or contentment and positive associations with positive emotion; such smiles were considered trustworthy and believable.

Other smiles, like those shown by many police officers, tend to come off as insincere since they frequently occur when people feel threatened or in danger; and more likely than others used as forms of politeness or social manipulation.

Facial mimicry is another reason people may appear to be smiling even though they're not. When viewing photos of themselves displaying genuine or fake smiles, their brain automatically produces that expression to match. That is why family vacation pictures likely feature big toothy grins and crinkled eyes; yet smiling politicians in official government event photos may look stiff and artificial.


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