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Friday, 17 April 2009 18:01

Say cheese, smile big, and stay married long

A U.S. study has found that the people who smile the biggest in photographs when they are young are more likely to stay married later in life. The frowners were more likely to divorce.

The researchers of the study are Matthew J. Hertenstein, Carrie A. Hansel, Alissa M. Butts, and Sarah N. Hile, of the Touch and Emotion Laboratory (TEL) at Depauw University in Indiana.

They sent emails to about 18,000 college graduates, and used the ones that sent back a completed online questionnaire and a picture from their high school yearbook.

Some of the questions asked about their marriage, such as if they were in a committed relationship and if they had ever divorced.

The researchers eventually used 225 women and 124 men in their study. They had graduated between 1948 and 2005 with ages ranging from 21 to 81 years. Based on a “smile intensity score” (from 1 to 10) the researchers evaluated the biggest smiles and the most downturned frowns.

In one part of the study, the researchers found that the biggest smilers had never divorced, while the ones with the smallest smiles had divorced almost 25% of the time.

In a second part of the study, people over the age of 65 were asked to give the researchers a photograph from their childhood. The researchers found that 11% of the people with the biggest smiles had divorced, while 31% of the non-smiling (weakly smiling or frowning) people had divorced.

Page two concludes.

According to the New York Daily News article Smile for the camera - it might help you stay happily married, "The researchers have concluded that people who frown in childhood photos are five times more likely to get a divorce than those who smile for the camera."

The researchers conclude that even small behaviors, such as a smile or frown, can be used to predict divorce.

U.S. psychologist Dr. Hertenstein, the lead author in the study, stated, "It feeds into this idea that what's occurring earlier in our lives in terms of our present situation and our mental state can predict things that occur decades later. Maybe smiling people attract other happier people, and the combination may lead to a greater likelihood of a long-lasting marriage."

"We don’t really know for sure what's causing it."
[New York Daily News]

Their paper, "Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life,” was published in the April 5, 2009 issue of the journal Motivation and Emotion.

Hertenstein concludes, "I think [our results] go along with a lot of the literature that’s been coming out over the last five to 10 years, which shows that positive emotionality is incredibly important in our lives. There are many, many beneficial outcomes to a positive disposition." [New York Daily News]

A video of Dr. Hertenstin appearing on NBC’s The Today Show is found in  the DePauw University article “NBC's Today Features Professor's Research on Smiling and Divorce.”

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