About Smiling

Smiling involves two main muscles: the zygomaticus major and the orbicularis oculi. The zycomaticus major runs from the corner of the mouth to the top of the jaw and is responsible for the "turned up" corners associated with a smile. These are the muscles that engage when someone asks you to smile for a picture or you offer a polite smile to coworkers as you pass them in the hall. These social smiles, also known as "Pan American smiles," have a different look and communicate a different message than genuine smiles do.

A genuine smile, also called a "Duchenne smile" after researcher Guillaume-Benjamin Duchenne, incorporates the orbicularis oculi as well. These muscles are located around your eye sockets and they contract when you smile in response to a true emotion. In addition to the corners of your mouth lifting, the orbicularis oculi contracts to create wrinkles or laugh lines around your eyes that convey real feeling. In the nineteenth century, Duchenne studied facial muscles and discovered that these smiles are indeed more genuine.

The difficulty with producing a Duchenne smile on command is that it requires an actual emotion to look sincere. Since you can't force the feeling that drives a genuine smile, the best way to get close is to think of something that makes you truly happy. It can be your best friend, your dog, your kids or even your favorite food; anything that provokes the positive emotions that cause both sets of smile muscles to work together. Showing your teeth when you're smiling gives a better, more real impression than a closed-mouth smile as well.

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