English-Video.net comment policy

The comment field is common to all languages

Let's write in your language and use "Google Translate" together

Please refer to informative community guidelines on TED.com

TED2011

Ron Gutman: The hidden power of smiling

Filmed
Views 4,695,049

Ron Gutman reviews a raft of studies about smiling, and reveals some surprising results. Did you know your smile can be a predictor of how long you'll live -- and that a simple smile has a measurable effect on your overall well-being? Prepare to flex a few facial muscles as you learn more about this evolutionarily contagious behavior.

- Entrepreneur
Ron Gutman is the founder and CEO of HealthTap, free mobile and online apps for health info. He's also the organizer of TEDxSiliconValley. Full bio

When I was a child, I always wanted to be a superhero.
00:15
I wanted to save the world and then make everyone happy.
00:18
But I knew that I'd need superpowers
00:21
to make my dreams come true.
00:23
So I used to embark on these imaginary journeys
00:25
to find intergalactic objects from planet Krypton,
00:28
which was a lot of fun,
00:31
but didn't get much result.
00:33
When I grew up and realized
00:35
that science fiction was not a good source for superpowers,
00:37
I decided instead to embark on a journey of real science,
00:40
to find a more useful truth.
00:43
I started my journey in California
00:45
with a UC Berkeley 30-year longitudinal study
00:48
that examined the photos of students
00:51
in an old yearbook
00:53
and tried to measure their success and well-being
00:55
throughout their life.
00:57
By measuring their student smiles,
00:59
researchers were able to predict
01:01
how fulfilling and long-lasting
01:03
a subject's marriage will be,
01:05
how well she would score
01:08
on standardized tests of well-being
01:10
and how inspiring she would be to others.
01:12
In another yearbook, I stumbled upon Barry Obama's picture.
01:16
When I first saw his picture,
01:19
I thought that these superpowers came from his super collar.
01:21
But now I know it was all in his smile.
01:25
Another aha! moment
01:28
came from a 2010 Wayne State University research project
01:30
that looked into pre-1950s baseball cards
01:33
of Major League players.
01:36
The researchers found
01:38
that the span of a player's smile
01:40
could actually predict the span of his life.
01:42
Players who didn't smile in their pictures
01:45
lived an average of only 72.9 years,
01:48
where players with beaming smiles
01:51
lived an average of almost 80 years.
01:53
(Laughter)
01:56
The good news is that we're actually born smiling.
01:58
Using 3D ultrasound technology,
02:01
we can now see that developing babies appear to smile,
02:03
even in the womb.
02:06
When they're born,
02:08
babies continue to smile --
02:10
initially, mostly in their sleep.
02:12
And even blind babies smile
02:14
to the sound of the human voice.
02:16
Smiling is one of the most basic, biologically-uniform
02:19
expressions of all humans.
02:22
In studies conducted in Papua New Guinea,
02:24
Paul Ekman,
02:26
the world's most renowned researcher on facial expressions,
02:28
found that even members of the Fore tribe,
02:31
who were completely disconnected from Western culture,
02:34
and also known for their unusual cannibalism rituals,
02:37
attributed smiles to descriptions of situations
02:41
the same way you and I would.
02:44
So from Papua New Guinea
02:46
to Hollywood
02:49
all the way to modern art in Beijing,
02:51
we smile often,
02:54
and you smile to express joy
02:56
and satisfaction.
02:58
How many people here in this room
03:00
smile more than 20 times per day?
03:02
Raise your hand if you do. Oh, wow.
03:04
Outside of this room,
03:07
more than a third of us smile more than 20 times per day,
03:09
whereas less than 14 percent of us
03:12
smile less than five.
03:15
In fact, those with the most amazing superpowers
03:17
are actually children,
03:20
who smile as many as 400 times per day.
03:23
Have you ever wondered why being around children
03:26
who smile so frequently
03:28
makes you smile very often?
03:30
A recent study at Uppsala University in Sweden
03:34
found that it's very difficult to frown
03:36
when looking at someone who smiles.
03:39
You ask, why?
03:41
Because smiling is evolutionarily contagious,
03:43
and it suppresses the control
03:45
we usually have on our facial muscles.
03:47
Mimicking a smile
03:50
and experiencing it physically
03:52
help us understand whether our smile is fake or real,
03:54
so we can understand the emotional state
03:58
of the smiler.
04:00
In a recent mimicking study
04:02
at the University of Clermont-Ferrand in France,
04:04
subjects were asked to determine
04:07
whether a smile was real or fake
04:09
while holding a pencil in their mouth
04:11
to repress smiling muscles.
04:13
Without the pencil, subjects were excellent judges,
04:15
but with the pencil in their mouth --
04:18
when they could not mimic the smile they saw --
04:20
their judgment was impaired.
04:23
(Laughter)
04:25
In addition to theorizing on evolution in "The Origin of Species,"
04:27
Charles Darwin also wrote
04:30
the facial feedback response theory.
04:32
His theory states
04:34
that the act of smiling itself
04:36
actually makes us feel better --
04:38
rather than smiling being merely a result
04:40
of feeling good.
04:42
In his study,
04:44
Darwin actually cited a French neurologist, Guillaume Duchenne,
04:46
who used electric jolts to facial muscles
04:49
to induce and stimulate smiles.
04:52
Please, don't try this at home.
04:54
(Laughter)
04:56
In a related German study,
04:58
researchers used fMRI imaging
05:00
to measure brain activity
05:02
before and after injecting Botox
05:04
to suppress smiling muscles.
05:07
The finding supported Darwin's theory
05:10
by showing that facial feedback
05:12
modifies the neural processing
05:14
of emotional content in the brain
05:16
in a way that helps us feel better when we smile.
05:18
Smiling stimulates our brain reward mechanism
05:22
in a way that even chocolate --
05:24
a well-regarded pleasure inducer --
05:26
cannot match.
05:29
British researchers found that one smile
05:31
can generate the same level of brain stimulation
05:34
as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.
05:37
(Laughter)
05:40
Wait. The same study found
05:42
that smiling is as stimulating
05:45
as receiving up to 16,000 pounds Sterling in cash.
05:47
That's like 25 grand a smile.
05:52
It's not bad.
05:54
And think about it this way:
05:56
25,000 times 400 --
05:58
quite a few kids out there
06:00
feel like Mark Zuckerberg every day.
06:02
And, unlike lots of chocolate,
06:05
lots of smiling can actually make you healthier.
06:07
Smiling can help reduce the level
06:10
of stress-enhancing hormones
06:12
like cortisol, adrenaline and dopamine,
06:14
increase the level of mood-enhancing hormones
06:17
like endorphin
06:19
and reduce overall blood pressure.
06:21
And if that's not enough,
06:23
smiling can actually make you look good
06:25
in the eyes of others.
06:27
A recent study at Penn State University
06:29
found that when you smile,
06:31
you don't only appear to be more likable and courteous,
06:33
but you actually appear to be more competent.
06:36
So whenever you want to look great and competent,
06:40
reduce your stress
06:42
or improve your marriage,
06:44
or feel as if you just had a whole stack of high-quality chocolate --
06:46
without incurring the caloric cost --
06:49
or as if you found 25 grand in a pocket
06:52
of an old jacket you hadn't worn for ages,
06:54
or whenever you want to tap into a superpower
06:57
that will help you and everyone around you
07:01
live a longer, healthier, happier life,
07:04
smile.
07:07
(Applause)
07:09

▲Back to top

About the speaker:

Ron Gutman - Entrepreneur
Ron Gutman is the founder and CEO of HealthTap, free mobile and online apps for health info. He's also the organizer of TEDxSiliconValley.

Why you should listen

Ron Gutman is the founder and CEO of HealthTap -- free mobile and online apps for immediate access to relevant, reliable and trusted health answers and tips from a network of over 38,000 U.S.-licensed doctors. He's responsible for the company's innovation, vision and product. Before this, he foundes and led an online consumer health company that developed the world's largest community of independent health writers; it was acquired in early 2009.

As a graduate student at Stanford, Gutman organized and led a multidisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students from the schools of Engineering, Medicine, Business, Psychology and Law to conduct research in personalized health and to design ways to help people live healthier, happier lives. He is an angel investor and advisor to health and technology companies such as Rock Health (the first Interactive Health Incubator) and Harvard Medical School's SMArt Initiative ("Substitutable Medical Apps, reusable technologies"). He's the organizer of TEDxSiliconValley.

Find links to all the studies that Gutman references in his talk right here >>

More profile about the speaker
Ron Gutman | Speaker | TED.com