The smile is a powerful expression. It can make others feel happy toward you, and it can even make you feel happy toward the world. But the power of the smile isn’t just emotional: it’s mnemonic. Numerous studies have shown that if you really want to be remembered, you should smile.
The Impact of Smile on Memory
Dozens of studies have been done to attempt to determine what makes people remember some faces and forget others, and many of them have shown that smiling is a big factor in making your face memorable.
In one experiment, researchers showed people pictures of smiling or angry faces, then distracted them before showing them some faces with neutral expressions. They found that people remembered the smiling faces better than the angry faces. Not only that, another experiment showed that people were better able to remember smiling faces they saw in the crowd than angry faces. And it’s not just the faces they remember. Another experiment showed people were better able to remember the names of people with smiling faces than those with angry or neutral expressions.
Why Smiles Are Remembered Better
So, people remember smiles better than angry or neutral expressions. But why? There are two main explanations: smiles are more distinct facial expressions and the emotional valence of smiling rewards the viewer.
Those who advocate the distinction theory say that smiling changes the face dramatically, and especially showing off the high contrast of white teeth makes the expression easy to remember. However, analysis has shown that even diminishing some of the salient features of the smile (such as darkening the teeth or turning the face upside-down) doesn’t diminish the ability of people to remember the smiling faces. And studies in which the amount of difference from a neutral expression is controlled show that happy faces still win out.
The emotional valence theory has also been strengthened by the involvement of the orbitofrontal complex in the memory of smiling faces. The orbitofrontal complex is involved in reward-based behavior. When looking at smiling faces, this brain structure interacts with the hippocampus–which is central to memory creation. This shows that smiling faces reward the viewer (remember, seeing a smile makes you happy), and that this helps reaffirm the memory of the face.
What’s Keeping You from Smiling?
Smiling when you first meet someone isn't just a social convention–it’s a powerful tool for making sure that people remember your face and remember your name.
But what if you are feeling self-conscious about your smile and don’t feel comfortable sharing it when you meet people? That’s where we can help. Cosmetic dentistry can help if your teeth are chipped, broken, crooked, or even missing. Porcelain veneers and dental crowns can restore damaged teeth, orthodontics can straighten your smile, and dental implants can replace missing teeth.
To learn how we can help you get a smile you’ll be proud and happy to share, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with a San Diego cosmetic dentist at Strober Dental today.