Smiling is an easy way to look younger, according to a new study.
Our facial expressions have an impact on how old we look, the study found. Pictures of people who were smiling were estimated to appear on average two years younger than they actually were.
The study had 154 adults guess the ages of men and women with various expressions in more than 2,000 photographs. The face in each photo had one of the following expressions: angry, fearful, disgusted, happy, sad and neutral.
Participants guessed the ages of the neutral faces most accurately, but faces with emotion tended to throw off age predictions.
“Although age estimates can often be based on multiple cues, there are many situations in which a picture of a person’s face is the only information that is immediately available,” researcher Manuel C. Voelkle of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and colleagues wrote.
For instance, on social networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, a picture of a person may be the only content shared, without additional background information, according to the authors.
One thing to note is that researchers said pictures of happy faces may be misleading because smiling or laughing creates temporary wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. Because it’s hard to tell temporary wrinkles from real ones in photos, people give a less accurate age estimate, Voelkle said.
In addition, people tend to find smiling faces more attractive, so they may be judged to be younger than they are.
Another interesting finding was that older female faces were estimated to be over three years younger than older male faces. Voelkle thought this might be because women tend to pay more attention to their appearance than men do.
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