Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity

The article titled “Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity” was written by Ernest L. Abel and Michael L. Kruger. The main point presented by the authors is the way positive attitude influences a person’s life, personality, individual choices, marriage stability, and longevity. It has been considered for a long time that people who are more positive about their lives and life circumstances generally have longer and happier lives. The authors note certain details from other researchers’ works, such as the studies of Harker and Keltner, which show that positive emotions are associated with marriage stability and satisfaction. Abel and Kruger also use the data and results obtained from various other researches in order to support their point of view. For example, they cite that such emotional conditions, as happiness and sadness, are able to generate various autonomic responses in people and affect their well-being. In addition, other studies are mentioned that are also congruent with the abovementioned ones. The authors state their opinion on the matter as well, telling that there is a direct connection between smiling personality and physical and mental health. They support this opinion by means of holding their own research and stating its results. The group elected to evaluate in this research was Major League Baseball players from the year 1950. This particular group was chosen because the detailed statistics was available for each player. In order to hold the research, 230 photographs of players were chosen with the intention to rate the smile intensity of each player and compare it to their well-being and longevity.

Further in the article, the authors present more specific data from their research. First of all, they describe the procedure of the way they were collecting and evaluating the data. For that, the facial expressions and smile intensity of all players from photographs were divided into three categories. Those were as follows: 1 no smile; 2 – partial smile (movement of muscles around a person’s mouth); 3 – full smile, which was also called Duchenne smile (movement of muscles around a person’s mouth and in eye corners). In order to evade systematic biases in studying the cards and conduct the study more properly, the photographs were shuffled before being given for examination. Thus, researchers placed players’ file cards in one of the three categories depending on their facial expressions with the subsequent analysis of their longevity. Due to the Baseball Register, the authors were able to reveal the players’ personal information, such as birth year, body mass index, career length, fitness, performance, marital status, and so on. The results of this study proved to be congruent with the ones held before and showed 35 percent of the explained variability in survival for players with more intense smiles. For instance, while players with no smiles died at the age of around 72.9, players with Duchenne smiles did when they were 79.9. In the meantime, the players’ attractiveness did not show any connection with their longevity. Therefore, the authors provide detailed information about one side of the issue, namely it was the player’s facial expressions on the photographs. Even though the research was held properly and obtained results that correspond to those received in other similar researches, there are certain weak points. For example, the absence of a smile on a photograph does not always mean a less positive attitude to life. Individual examples could also take place, such as cases when players were not in a good mood while taking the picture, or shy to show an excessively broad smile, and so on. Nevertheless, the data obtained did not base on any personal opinions. Due to the fact that the researchers had a wide range of evidence and data on the players’ personalities and life stories, it is possible to affirm that the study was adequate and thorough.

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The data obtained from the examined research confirms the information from the textbook. There is no doubt that the positive attitude to life improves a person’s mental health. Vice versa, if an individual complains about something all the time, experiences hatred or other negative emotions, this makes a harmful contribution to his or her life and relationship with others – friends, family members and so on. Surely, this factor is not the only one, but it determines much of the person’s overall mental health. Nevertheless, this attitude can alter during one’s life. For example, a person can grow up as a positive individual but change his or her attitude due to certain circumstances. On the other hand, understanding that negative emotions are destructive, a person can decide to change this and learn to become more optimistic.

Certainly, smiling and positive personality helps an individual in his or her life. Positive attitude creates more opportunities for personal growth, gives more strength and hope to keep living even when hard times come. Optimistic people are usually happier and live longer. This can be seen from the example of long-living people all around the world. There are certain people who get to the Guinness Book of Records for longevity, and none of these people seem to be negative, pessimistic, or depressive. All of them create the impression of calm and serenity, even though, due to their long lives, they had to overcome many trials, such as the deaths of their family members – wives or husbands, children, and even grandchildren. What unites all these people is the fact that they keep being active and have certain hobbies until the dying days. Moreover, many of them connect their longevity with positive thinking and optimism. For example, a woman named Maggie Renfro is believed to be one of the oldest people of the United States. She was born on November 14, 1895 and died on January 22, 2010 aged 114 years and 69 days. Until her death, the woman taught her close people to love everyone and treat all the being right. She never complained and always was positive (Associated Press, 2007). This fact was one of the main influences on her longer life, even though she definitely had hard times, like any other person does.

Surely, there are other factors that lead to a person’s longevity, which are good nutrition, good ecology, and so on. Nevertheless, positive attitude remains one of the main contributors to one’s mental health. It is undoubted that there are no researches that would prove that the negative attitude towards oneself or other people makes life better or longer. Instead, depressions, anxiety, hatred and other negative conditions and emotions lead to various diseases, nervous breakdowns, heart attacks, and so on. Surely, when seeing such emotions in other people, an individual suffers, even though he or she might not have them personally. Nevertheless, in the first place, such feelings destroy the person who experiences them from within. Certainly, a balanced nervous and cardiovascular system needs to be supported by positive emotions such as care, love, appreciation, compassion, and so on. In my opinion, there is a possibility to see light even in the pitch darkness. When hard times come and a person thinks about them as about the end of his or her life, such thoughts definitely harm the nervous system and may result in negative consequences. Therefore, in order not to hurt oneself, a person has to remember about this and try to stop such emotions. Moreover, he or she needs to switch to more positive thoughts and learn to see the good sides in everything.


Abel, E.L. and Kruger, M.L. (2010). Smile Intensity in Photographs Predicts Longevity. Psychological Science, 21(542)

Associated Press (2007). “Minden woman believed to be state’s oldest living person.” KTBS.

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