Researchers at DePauw University in Indiana have shown that the strength of your smile in childhood photographs is an accurate predictor of divorce. In a pair of studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion, they found that those with the brightest smiles were less likely to get divorced in later life.
Building on earlier research, the team first asked 493 university graduates to take part in their study. Participants were asked if they were currently in a committed relationship, if they ever had been in a committed relationship, and if they had ever been divorced. In addition to the questionnaire, researchers examined the participants yearbook photos and graded their smiles according to the Facival Action Coding System (FACS), which rates the movement of muscles in forming physical expressions of emotions, such as smiles. They found that those participants who scored a low “smile intensity” according to the system were most likely to be divorced.
To corroborate this evidence, the team conducted another study of 31 people from the wider population, not just university alumni. These participants were asked to send in up to eight photographs of themselves aged between 5 and 22. Any photos were allowed, including school photos, wedding photos, and photos take with their families. As an incentive, they were offered a small gift card for taking part. The FACS analysis showed a similar result to the first study, indicating that even very young childhood photographs could be an indicator of future divorce.
How exactly does this mechanism work then? The researchers admit they don’t know, but offer several hypotheses. It could be that those who smile in photographs have more stable personalities, which produces a stable relationship, or perhaps those with more positive emotionality seek out similar people for happier marriages. It might just be that people who smile in photographs smile more generally, and are better at communicating their emotions.
Whatever the reason, it seems that a childhood smile can definitely be used to predict divorce. The paper calls for more research to examine this further, and perhaps find the underlying process that control the relationship between smiling and divorce.
Hertenstein, M., Hansel, C., Butts, A., & Hile, S. (2009). Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life Motivation and Emotion DOI: 10.1007/s11031-009-9124-6