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Is Smiling Contagious? Essay

1432 words - 6 pages

Have you ever wondered if smiling is contagious? When the old lady at the grocery store smiles at you, can’t you feel the smile spreading across your face? Many people believe that smiling is contagious. On page 8 of David R. Hamilton’s book The Contagious Power of Thinking: How Your Thoughts Can Influence the World, David states, “You only need to flash a smile at someone to raise a smile in them. No matter how hard they try to resist, smiling is contagious.” (Hamilton, 2011) Is David stating his own opinion though? I have no idea how much scientific information David has in his statement, however, I know there has to be research done by real scientists on the contagion of smiles.
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The zygomatic major, part of the cheek, tugs the lips upward, and the orbicularis oculi encircles the eye socket, then it squeezes the outside corners into the shape of a crow’s foot. A smile is very short, often lasting from two-thirds of a second to four seconds. However, those that witness the smile, often mirror the action by smiling back.
Now that we know the science behind a smile, and the fact that smiling is contagious, we can learn about the contagion of yawns and how they relate to smiles. Researchers suggest that yawning contagion is, in part, the result of empathy, in which we attempt to see things from another person’s angle and respond to that person’s emotions. Matthew Campbell says, “I think that studies support the idea that empathy is the mechanism that underlies contagious yawns.” Campbell also says, “The idea is that it’s the same mechanism by which we catch smiles or frowns or fearful expressions.” (Campbell, 2011) This sounds to me like Campbell thinks we smile out of empathy for people. I didn’t see this as a reasonable response to smiles at first, but it might very well be true. We might be trying to understand the person we smile at. I believe we are trying to understand the person, because I always think, why is this person smiling at me? When a person smiles at you, you do wonder about them. The contagion of smiles may result from empathy.
Smiling not only makes you feel good, but can affect the people around you also. Like in the beginning I wrote that when someone smiles at you, you feel the need to smile back right? How does your smile affect everyone that surrounds you? Well, each time you smile at someone their brain urges them to smile back. It’s just like returning a favor. If you let Julie borrow your shoes, then she will find a way to pay you back. Smiling is our way of paying someone back, because their smile is almost like a gift to us. When you smile at someone you are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release chemicals in your brain that make you feel happier or better, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive and increase the chances of you both living healthier, longer lives. In an article by Sarah Stevenson she writes, “We can’t always control what happens to us, but I am 100% confident that gracing your face with a grin can seriously change your internal and external experience.” (Stevenson, 2012) I believe that Sarah’s thought process here is true. Smiling does make you happier, and it can not only benefit you now, but also in your future.
I feel that I have answered the question very well, that smiling, in fact is contagious. There are many scientific studies done that prove this point. Psychology also shows how our brains react and how we behave in response. Whether it is that we feel empathy for the person that smiled at us, or our brain just reacted that way, most people do smile back in return to receiving a smile. Also, science proves that it is...

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