Seeing a child’s
smile creates as much pleasure as 2,000 chocolate bars—or $25,000 in cash. That
was the surprising finding of a
British study conducted by Hewlett Packard, using an electromagnetic brain
scan machine and heart-rate monitor to measure “the mood-boosting value” of
various stimuli. The study also found that seeing a loved one’s smile was worth
about 600 chocolate treats or 8,500 Pounds Sterling ($13,175), while a friend’s
grin was valued at $225, or 200 chocolate bars. In a subsequent survey, 1,000 British
adults ranked smiling as more likely to give a short-term high than sex, candy,
or shopping (in that order).
the people around you will literally feel like a million bucks. And here are
more ways it pays off to supersize your grin: Research suggests that the size
of your smile may predict how successful you’ll be at love and work, how
inspiring you’ll be to others, and even how long you’ll live. To learn more, I talked to Ron Gutman, author
of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a
Simple Act (TED Books,
2011). Here’s a look at some of the
intriguing research from around the world that he’s compiled.
3-D ultrasound imaging has captured vivid
pictures in which developing babies are smiling in the womb, says Gutman, the
CEO of Healthtap, Palo Alto, California-based healthcare social networking
company. “Even before birth, babies seem to be practicing this uniquely human
expression.” Initially babies smile in their sleep, but by three months of age,
they learn they can inspire smiles in others through a deliberate
smile—launching one of the first childhood games: the “smile exchange,” as the
American Academy of Pediatrics terms this milestone in infant development.
We can detect a smile from more than 300
That’s more than twice the distance at which we can distinguish
other facial expressions. It’s thought that this ability evolved so we could
quickly tell friend from foe and react accordingly. Studies at both the
Institute of Cognitive Science, in France, and the University of Manchester, in
the UK, separately report that a smile can even make us feel that a complete
stranger looks familiar.