Want to Look Younger? Smile!

In a study published in the journal, Psychology and Aging, researchers from The Institute for Human Development in Berlin discovered the unusual byproduct of smiling. They recruited 154 people of various ages to examine more than 2,000 photographs. The photographs depicted young faces and older ones wearing a wide range of expressions—from sad to happy. The study participants were asked to guess the ages of the subjects in each photograph.

The study's goal was to see how emotions and age—of both the viewer and the subject-affect how we perceive others. Researchers found that age estimations were most accurate when the photographic subjects wore neutral expressions. Subjects with emotional expressions were much harder to gauge. The big surprise: study participants consistently underestimated the ages of smiling subjects by two or more years.

There are few different theories as to why smiling would have this effect. It could be because smiling creates facial wrinkles in people of all ages, so it makes it hard to see which ones are permanent versus the result of your expression. It could simply be because the emotional expression distracts us from examining the face clearly. Or it may be that we find smiling people more attractive. Since we tend to equate attractiveness with youth, we naturally underestimate age.

Researchers also found that our ability to guess peoples' ages also decreases as we get older. Young adults were overall more accurate and less biased in their perceptions. However, all age groups were most accurate when evaluating people of their own age.

If you're one of those people who stop themselves from smiling for fear of wrinkles when you get older, you could be doing yourself a disservice. Smile away! It will make you look happy, healthy, and attractive!




Voelkle, Manuel C.; Ebner, Natalie C.; Lindenberger, Ulman; Riediger, Michaela: "Let me guess how old you are: Effects of age, gender, and facial expression on perceptions of age." Psychology and Aging. Web.