The Science


Science has proved that the more you smile, the more positive reactions others will give you. Smile constantly. Everyone will wonder what you’ve been up to!


Duchenne Smile – named after a famous scientist who was interested in Smiles and how we create them.


The first recorded scientific studies into smiling were in the early part of the nineteenth century when French scientist Guillaume Duchenne de Boulogne used electro diagnostics and electrical stimulation to distinguish between the smile of real enjoyment and other kinds of smiling. He analysed the heads of people executed by guillotine to study how the face muscles worked. He pulled face muscles from many different angles to catalogue and record which muscles caused which smiles. He discovered that smiles are controlled by two sets of muscles: the zygomatic major muscles, which run down the side of the face and connect to the corners of the mouth and the orbicularis oculi, which pull the eyes back. The zygomatic majors pull the mouth back to expose the teeth and enlarge the cheeks, while the orbicularis oculi make the eyes narrow and cause ‘crow’s feet’. These muscles are important to understand because the zygomatic majors are consciously controlled – in other words, they are used to produce false smiles of fake enjoyment to try to appear friendly or subordinate. The orbicularis oculi at the eyes act independently and reveal the true feelings of a genuine smile. So the first place to check the sincerity of a smile is to look for wrinkle lines beside the eyes.


A natural smile produces characteristic wrinkles around the eyes – insincere people smile only with their mouth.

In the enjoyment smile, not only are the lip corners pulled up, but the muscles around the eyes are contracted, while non-enjoyment smiles involve just the smiling lips.

Scientists can distinguish between genuine and fake smiles by using a coding system called the Facial Action Coding System (FACS), which was devised by Professor Paul Ekman of the University of California and Dr Wallace V Friesen of the University of Kentucky. Genuine smiles are generated by the unconscious brain, which means they are automatic.

When you feel pleasure, signals pass through the part of your brain that processes emotion, making your mouth muscles move, your cheeks raise, your eyes crease up and your eyebrows dip slightly.


 Photographers ask you to say ‘Cheese’ because this word puts back the zygomatic major muscles. But the result is a false smile and an insincere looking photograph.

Smiling and laughing are universally considered to be signals that show a person is happy.  Recent research with our closest primate cousins, the chimpanzees, has shown that smiling serves an even deeper, more primitive purpose.

Chimpanzees have two types of smiles: one is an appeasement face, where one chimp shows submission to a dominant other. In this chimp smile – known as a ‘fear face’ – the lower jaw opens to expose the teeth and the corners of the mouth are pulled back and down, and this resembles the human smile.

The other is a ‘play face’ where the teeth are exposed, the corners of the mouth and the eyes are drawn upwards and vocal sounds are made, similar to that of human laughing. In both cases, these smiles are used as submission gestures. The first communicates ‘I am not a threat because, as you can see, I’m fearful of you’ and the other says ‘I am not a threat because, as you can see, I’m just like a playful child’. This is the same face pulled by a chimpanzee that is anxious or fearful that it may be attacked or injured by others. The zygomatics pull the corners of the mouth back horizontally or downwards and the orbicularis eye muscles don’t move. And it’s the same nervous smile used by a person who steps onto a busy road and almost gets killed by a bus. Because it’s a fear reaction, they smile and say, ‘Gee…I almost got killed!’.

In humans, smiling serves much the same purpose as with other primates. It tells another person you are non-threatening and asks them to accept you on a personal level. Lack of smiling explains why many dominant individuals, such as Vladimir Putin, James Cagney, Clint Eastwood, Margaret Thatcher and Charles Bronson, always seem to look grumpy or aggressive and are rarely seen smiling – they simply don’t want to appear in any way submissive.


Smiling Is Contagious

The remarkable thing about a smile is that when you give it to someone, it causes them to reciprocate by returning the smile, even when you are both using fake smiles.

Professor Ulf Dimberg at Uppsala University, Sweden, conducted an experiment that revealed how your unconscious mind exerts direct control of your facial muscles. Using equipment that picks up electrical signals from muscle fibres, he measured the facial muscle activity on 120 volunteers while they were exposed to pictures of both happy and angry faces.

They were told to make frowning, smiling or expressionless faces in response to what they saw. Sometimes the face they were told to attempt was the opposite of what they saw – meeting a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile. The results showed that the volunteers did not have total control over their facial muscles. While it was easy to frown back at a picture of an angry man, it was much more difficult to pull a smile. Even though volunteers were trying consciously to control their natural reactions, the twitching in their facial muscles told a different story – they were mirroring the expressions they were seeing, even when they were trying not to.

Professor Ruth Campbell, from University College London, believes there is a ‘mirror neuron’ in the brain that triggers the part responsible for the recognition of faces and expressions and causes an instant mirroring reaction. In other words, whether we realise it or not, we automatically copy the facial expressions we see.

This is why regular smiling is important to have as a part of your body language repertoire, even when you don’t feel like it, because smiling directly influences other people’s attitudes and how they respond to you.

 Why Laughter Is the Best Medicine

As with smiling, when laughter is incorporated as a permanent part of who you are, it attracts friends, improves health and extends life. When we laugh, every organ in the body is affected a positive way. Our breathing quickens, which exercises the diaphragm, neck, stomach, face and shoulders. Laughter creases the amount of oxygen in the blood, which not only helps healing and improves circulation; it also expands the blood vessels close to the skin’s surface. This is why people go red in the face when they laugh. It can also lower the heart rate, dilate the arteries, stimulate the appetite and burn up calories.


Neurologist Henri Rubenstein found that one minute of solid laughter provides up to 45 minutes of subsequent relaxation. Professor William Fry at Stanford University reported that 100 laughs will give your body an aerobic workout equal to that of a ten-minute session on a rowing machine.

The older we become, the more serious we become about life. An adult laughs an average of 15 times a day; a pre-schooler laughs an average of 400 times.


Why You Should Take Laughter Seriously

Research shows that people, who laugh or smile, even when they don’t feel especially happy, make part of the ‘happy zone’ in the brain’s left hemisphere surge with electrical activity. In one of his numerous studies on laughter, Richard Davidson, professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, hooked subjects up to EEG (electroencephalograph) machines, which measure brain wave activity, and showed them funny movies. Smiling made their happy zones click wildly. He proved that intentionally producing smiles and laughter moves brain activity towards spontaneous happiness.

Arnie Cann is a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina who has an interest in posttraumatic growth, where a positive change is experienced as a result of the struggle with a major life crisis or a traumatic event. Professor Cann discovered that humour has a positive impact in counteracting stress and he led an experiment with people who were showing early signs of depression. Two groups watched videos over a three-week period. The group that watched comedy videos showed more improvement in their symptoms than did a control group that watched non-humorous videos. He also found that people with ulcers frown more than people without ulcers.


How Humour Heals

Laughter stimulates the body’s natural painkillers and ‘feel good’ enhancers, known as endorphins, helping relieve stress and heal the body. When Norman Cousins was diagnosed with the debilitating illness ankylospondylitis, the doctors told him they could no longer help him and that he would live in excruciating pain before he died. Cousins checked into a hotel room and hired every funny movie he could find: the Marx Brothers, Airplane and The Three Stooges, etc. He watched and re-watched them over and over, laughing as hard and loud as he could. After six months of this self-inflicted laughter therapy, the doctors were amazed to find that his illness had been completely cured – the disease was gone! This amazing outcome led to the publishing of Cousins’ book, Anatomy of an Illness, and the start of massive research into the function of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals released from the brain when you laugh. They have a similar chemical composition to morphine and heroin and have a tranquillising effect on the body, while building the immune system. This explains why happy people rarely get sick and miserable but complaining people often seem to be ill.


Smiling – The Best Drug in the World

When you’re stressed, you can look tired or worn down, life at times can take its toll.  Your face can give a lot away about how you are feeling, and there is nothing more attractive than bright, sparkling, happy eyes, whoever looks into them feels their warmth. Smiling not only makes you look better, but the simple act of smiling can actually help relieve stress and lower your blood pressure. It can also boost your immune system to work better, probably because you are more relaxed. This in turn helps your body release good things like endorphins, natural painkillers, and serotonin which is secreted by the pineal gland, and these all make you feel better and raise your spirits.

Descartes proposed that the pineal gland was the “seat of the soul” and was the meeting place of the physical and spiritual. The body and spirit not only meet there, but each affects the other. Madame Blavatsky who, amongst other things, was the first to introduce knowledge of eastern religions to the West – including the ideas of karma and reincarnation, has a similar view when she writes,“[the pineal] gland is in truth the very seat of the highest and divinest consciousness in man, his omniscient, spiritual and all-embracing mind.”  The pineal can be thought of as the physical organ corresponding to a gateway between spirit and matter. Since the time of Descartes and Madame Blavatsky much research has been carried out on this tiny but incredibly powerful part of our endocrine system.  It is now known that the pineal gland is responsible for secreting two extremely vital brain fluids related to our mental health.

Those are, melatonin, which is the hormone that induces sleep, and serotonin, which is the chemical that helps to maintain a happy, healthy balanced mental state of mind, among other functions.

As we grow older, the pineal gland begins to calcify from the numerous substances and hormones found in our foods including soft drinks, processed foods and refined sugars that contribute to this degenerative effect. There are even some who have uncovered scientific research that point to psyche drugs, anti-depressant, and fluoride in the water systems that may be causing irreparable damage to the pineal gland, as well.

Research by: Susan Duggan