JERUSALEM (JTA) — People who smile at others are perceived as being older, not younger, than those with a neutral expression, a Ben-Gurion University of the Negev study found.
The findings were published in the May 8 edition of Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.
In a series of experiments intended to gauge age perception based on facial expressions, 40 Ben-Gurion University students were shown images of people and asked to rank them from oldest to youngest. The study participants were shown pictures of smiling faces, neutral expressions and surprised looks. They ranked the smiling faces as the oldest and surprised expressions as the youngest.
“Popular media promotes the idea that smiling makes you look younger,” Tzvi Ganel, head of the Laboratory for Visual Perception and Action in the university’s Department of Psychology, said in a statement. “Look at all of the smiling faces in skincare and dental ads. How many of us post smiling faces on social media?”
The researchers believe that smiling makes a person look older because of the wrinkle lines that form around the eyes. A surprised face, however, lifts and pulls the skin backward, smoothing any potential age-related wrinkles.