“Whenever I see your smiling face, I have to smile myself” sang James Taylor back in the day. He may have been onto something. While smiling makes us more attractive to other people, it turns out the simple facial expression can also encourage others to return the favor.
And there’s actually a scientific reason behind why seeing someone else smile causes us to do the same. Here’s an explanation of why smiles are contagious.
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Mirroring Others’ Expressions Explain Why Smiles Are Contagious
It isn’t just smiles that are contagious; frowns can be as well. We can’t help it. As humans, we often like to show our solidarity with another person and what they’re going through by mirroring their facial expression.
According to a scientific paper published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, all of our facial expressions are contagious. When we meet another person who is sad, our expression takes on a somber look. When someone is beaming with happiness, we smile along with them.
The inferior frontal gyrus, located above your temple, is the part of your brain that is stimulated to produce an emotional feeling whenever you make a facial expression.
What’s amazing is that we tend to mimic others’ expressions without even realizing it. It’s an automatic response by our brain to figure out what another person is feeling. Making a smile or a frown then tells your brain how you should feel.
This is why the simple act of smiling to one’s self, even if no one else is around, can usually turn our mood around and make us feel happy.
What if You’re Physically Unable to Mimic a Facial Expression?
Here’s where the research really gets interesting. Separate studies have found that people with facial paralysis are unable to generate feelings in their brain because they are unable to mimic another person’s facial expression.
Even something that temporarily freezes facial muscle movements—such as receiving a numbing anesthetic at the dentist—interrupts the emotional connection to the brain.
Scientists are using the findings of the connection between physically making a facial expression and the feeling it generates to better understand autism.
How to Smile More
There is some truth to the old saying, “Smile and the whole world smiles with you.” Our smile has amazing superpower properties that can influence emotions in others. It’s no wonder why smiles are contagious.
There’s plenty of ways that we can smile more. Thinking or interacting with someone or something we love can help us light up a room. Reading inspirational quotes, going for a walk, and watching our favorite funny movies can make us smile.
Here at Scoopify you’ll find plenty of content that will make you smile, from the top countries to visit to beauty advice. Check out our tips on taking care of your teeth so that your smile stays stunning and contagious!