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.





  • yield – produce or generate (a result, gain, or financial return)
  • beaming (smile) – smiling broadly
  • renowned – known or talked about by many people; famous
  • contagious – (of an emotion, feeling, or attitude) likely to spread to and affect others
  • mimic – imitate (someone or their actions or words)
  • courteous – polite, respectful, or considerate in manner


Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets. 

  1. What was Ron’s dream as a child? What did he decide to do eventually? (0:58)
  2. What is the relation between a person’s smile and their life span? (1:54)
  3. In what way is smiling special? (2:57)
  4. Why is is difficult to frown at someone when the person is smiling? (4:00)
  5. What did Darwin say about smiling? (4:57)
  6. What does Ron say about smiling, chocolate, and money? (5:53)
  7. What are some other benefits of smiling?


Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

________ I was a child, I always wanted to be a superhero. I wanted to save the world and make everyone happy. But I knew that I ________ need superpowers to make my dreams ________ true. So I used to embark ________ these imaginary journeys to find intergalactic objects from planet Krypton, which was a lot of fun, but didn’t yield ________ result. When I grew ________ and realized that science fiction was not a good source for superpowers, I decided instead to embark on a journey of real science, to find a more useful truth.

I started my journey ________ California, with a UC Berkeley 30-year longitudinal study that examined the photos ________ students in an old yearbook, and tried to measure their success and well-being throughout ________ life. By measuring the students’ smiles, researchers were able to predict ________ fulfilling and long-lasting a subject’s marriage would be; how well she would score on standardized tests of well-being, and how inspiring she would be to others. In another yearbook, I stumbled ________ Barry Obama’s picture. When I first saw his picture, I thought that his superpowers came from his super ________ .



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