Newsmakers: The Face

Melvyn Goodale

Melvyn Goodale, Director of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western, and Tzvi Ganel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, co-authored a study in 2017 that indicates smiling can make you appear to be one year older than if you wear a poker face.

We associate a smile with happiness, youth and vivacity. It’s an idea the media and cosmetics companies sell every day, said Melvyn Goodale, Director of the Brain and Mind Institute at Western.

Up until this study, researchers tested perceptions of expression and age by presenting participants with photographs of the same face – one smiling, one neutral. This led to flawed results, Goodale stressed. If the participant already held the belief a smiling person looks younger – a commonly held belief – their pre-existing view would contaminate their age rating of the smiling individual.

For their study, Goodale and Ganel tested perceptions of expressions by presenting participants with different sets of photographs showing smiling and neutral faces. It was deliberately arranged to ensure the expressions were worn by different people for each set of participants – no one saw the same face smiling and in a neutral expression.