Why Smiles, Yawns & Frowns are Contagious

February 12th, 2016

Why Smiles, Yawns & Frowns are Contagious

At Lifetime Family Dental we do our best to spread the gift of healthy, beautiful smiles with our patients. As it turns out, a dentist or dental hygienist aren’t the only ones who have the ability to share the love! According to new research, we all have the ability to give the gift of a smile this Valentine’s Day.

Yawns have long been recognized as a contagious phenomenon, but yawning isn’t the only expression that we naturally mimic. Researcher psychologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison believe they have found clear evidence that when we mimic facial expressions, it helps play a role in recognizing emotions in others. This would explain why being around visibly happy or sad people can cause us to feel similarly. The research shows that we unconsciously copy facial expressions to aid us in understanding how the other person is feeling. This natural instinct is believed to have developed to help us show empathy towards our neighbors. What’s perhaps most impressive, is the fact that we have the ability to extract emotional meanings from a facial expression in just a few hundred milliseconds!

This information is especially important because other studies also indicate that if a person’s ability to recognize facial expressions in others is curbed, their ability to recognize and emulate that persons emotions can be limited. This can be an issue for people who suffer from facial paralysis from nerve damage or stroke. However, sometimes the mimicry can be done secretly by simply activating the relevant areas of the brain as if we were going to make that facial expression. Understanding the implications of this mimicry may provide information as to why people with disorders like autism are often unable to recognize emotion. Eye contact, which can be overstimulating to people with autism, plays a large role in facial mimicry. Understanding these findings could lead to new treatments of social disorders like autism.

If you want the smile your sharing with others to be a beautiful one, contact Lifetime Family Dental today to make sure your smile is doing the most good out there in the world!

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/11/2016) rjp(Flickr)