Your Best Smile, What We Find so Attractive About Smiling and Why


Your best smile gives you confidence in everything you do. It is something those who have it often take for granted, and those who don’t often wish they did. But your best smile is not out of reach. It is possible for everyone to improve their smile. Sky Ortho doctors and our team works with patients every day to reach that goal. Let’s explore the psychology of smiling, learn why it is so special to people, and how all can benefit.

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The Science Behind Your Best Smile

Many species in the animal kingdom bare their teeth as a sign of aggression. But not humans. We show our teeth as a sign of friendliness, and as a way to demonstrate our good nature.

Frank McAndrew, a professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois told Scientific American magazine that smiling is a natural and essential human behavior. He has spent much time studying facial expressions and determined that smiling is a behavior that we are all born with. “Kids who are born blind never see anybody smile,” he said, “but they show the same kinds of smiles under the same situations as sighted people.”

Of course, humans can also force a smile in an effort to hide their true feelings. A good example is when you pose for a photo. You may smile whether you feel like it or not.

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Just How Attractive is Your Best Smile?

Smiling is one of the most important elements of all the physical traits of a person’s attractiveness. Many studies have morphed faces varying in attractiveness and happiness and asked them to choose the most attractive one. In the end, researchers find that a person’s attractiveness is strongly influenced by the intensity of their smile and the expression of real happiness on their face. In addition, a pleasant grin on a happy face could even compensate for unattractiveness. Multiple studies over the past 40 years reveal similar findings: your best smile is more attractive than no smile.

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Your Smile Connects You to Others

It may sound a bit morbid but experimental psychologist at Yale University Marianne LaFrance discovered something interesting while conducting research for her book, Lip Service: Smiles in Life, Death, Trust, Lies, Work, Memory, Sex, and Politics.

“I found that in obituaries people often, more than any other attribute, mentioned their loved one’s smile,” she told Wired magazine. “This just goes to prove that smiling is a way we connect with other people.”

Additionally, LaFrance also revealed that “people convey by their faces that they acknowledge us, that we’re alive, that we matter, that we aren’t just objects.” As a result, she leaves little doubt our smile is a big deal. Furthermore, when it comes to dating, this critical connection and attraction begin with a smile.


Your Best Smile Indicates Concern for Others

When we think of altruism, we associate it with volunteering time or money to a charitable cause. Similarly, British behavioral scientist Marc Mehu with the Association for Psychological Science and colleagues discovered that people smile to let others know they have altruistic intentions.

Likewise, altruism is an appealing quality in others. In fact, it is a proven factor for many women when choosing a long-term partner. This characteristic of generosity has the ability to boost attractiveness. According to a 2016 study, being altruistic made low attractive men more desirable when it came to long-term relationships. Men who aren’t attractive but are altruistic are more desirable than attractive, non-altruistic men.


We Find Confidence and Comfort in the Smiles of Others

Often we give little thought to our smiles and how much they do for us. However, those who are unable to smile as a result of a medical or neurological condition are met with challenges. Your natural grin has the ability to put an entire room at ease. Ask any teacher greeting her class at the beginning of a school year. Children are quick to judge the demeanor of their teacher on the basis of a smile.

Anyone attending a corporate meeting or speaking publicly for the first time can attest to the power of a smile. Your self-confidence and the confidence others have in you as a leader is impacted by the power of your smile.

And if you are nervous about meeting your doctor, a smile when greeted makes a positive impact. It not only impacts your willingness to listen and share, but it also impacts your participation in care.

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Smiles are a Powerful Reward

Through the use of an MRI, scientists record increases in brain activity associated with sensory receptors upon seeing someone smile. This study by the Association for Psychological Science records the unique ways that smiling affects the brain.

“Each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor,” notes Ronald Riggio, a professor of leadership and organizational psychology at Claremont McKenna College in California in Psychology Today. “You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel-good chemicals in your brain, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive, and increase the chances of you both living longer healthier lives,” he says.