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Description: There are thousands and thousands of little postings out there on online that offer you small tidbits of information and that claim that those tidbits of information are potentially life altering. I am sure you realize that the main purpose of those tidbit postings is to capture and hold your attention just long enough to be able to run a few adds past your eyeballs. However, those tidbits of information can be quite tantalizing. Like this one: If you smile more you will live longer. Reading that could cause you to simply dismiss the information and get on with whatever it was you were supposed to be doing online or offline or it could cause you to resolve to try and smile more because who doesn’t want to live linger OR, especially given that the posting might suggest that there is research proving that the tidbit is true, perhaps the post tweaks your Psychological research process and standard radar and causes you to ask “What does their research design and their data look like and how did it lead them to that conclusion?” If the third option is the one that grabs you it will frustrate you to note that the while the author of the posted tidbit below about smiling and longevity indicates that there is research on the question of smiling and longevity they do not include references to the research articles themselves. As well they do not indicate whether the researchers considered that successful, well-off, healthy people might smile more than people who are none of those things and thus that smiling is an outcome or a corollary rather than a cause of longevity. No worries, if you extract some of the keywords used in the post to describe the research and search them on Google Scholar you can find the actual research articles and, luckily, both come with pdf links to full text. I have included the links below in the references section to both articles that looked at smiling and long-term wellbeing and longevity. So, give the tidbit post a quick read (it is brief) and then pick one of the research articles and go and read it and look into how the researchers designed their studies and see if their design work and statistical analyses convince you that there may be a causal relationship between smiling  and long-term wellbeing and longevity.

Source: Neuroscience Says Doing This 1 Thing Makes You Just as Happy as Eating 2,000 Chocolate Bars. Melanie Curtin, Pocket Worthy.

Date: November 18, 2019

Photo Credit: Pocket Worthy / Getty Images

Article Link:

So, what did you make of the article you chose to look at? Are you going to try and smile more or are there other things you are going to do or believe need to be done (like more research)? It is also interesting to think about the sorts of research questions than can be addressed with the sorts of datasets that are maintained by organizations like professional baseball. How about this: do right-handed people live longer than left-handed people? To see some of the research debate on this topic search Do right-handers live longer in Google Scholar and look first at an article by Halpern and Coren (1993) and then at some of the research reaction articles that followed. Interesting stuff (and you cannot turn into a right hander the same way you could just smile more).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why might smiling be related to longevity?
  2. If smiling is only correlated with longevity rather than being causally related what might be actually acting causally around that question?
  3. Are there some things that you think might be good for tidbit posters to be strongly urged to include in their posts about things like smiling and living longer that would be a good idea?

References (Read Further):

Abel, E. L., & Kruger, M. L. (2010). Smile intensity in photographs predicts longevity. Psychological Science, 21(4), 542-544.

Harker, L., & Keltner, D. (2001). Expressions of positive emotion in women’s college yearbook pictures and their relationship to personality and life outcomes across adulthood. Journal of personality and social psychology, 80(1), 112.

Deeg, D. J., & van Zonneveld, R. J. (1989). Does happiness lengthen life? The prediction of longevity in the elderly. How harmful is happiness, 29-43.

Lawrence, E. M., Rogers, R. G., & Wadsworth, T. (2015). Happiness and longevity in the United States. Social Science & Medicine, 145, 115-119.

Koopmans, T. A., Geleijnse, J. M., Zitman, F. G., & Giltay, E. J. (2010). Effects of happiness on all-cause mortality during 15 years of follow-up: The Arnhem Elderly Study. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(1), 113-124.

Diener, E., & Chan, M. Y. (2011). Happy people live longer: Subjective well‐being contributes to health and longevity. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 3(1), 1-43.