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Is Your Smile Still Working For You?

Posted September 26, 2012 in Advice Column, Beaverdale

Although a vast number of Americans understand the importance of a good smile, only half think their smile makes the grade…
• 99.7 percent of Americans believe a smile is an important social asset.
• 96 percent believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing to the opposite sex.
• 74 percent feel an unattractive smile can hurt chances for career success.
• But only 50 percent are satisfied with their smile.

Perceptions of a smile
Beall Research and Training, a marketing research firm, recently conducted a study evaluating how individuals perceive others according to the quality of their smile. In the study more than 500 people were shown photographs taken before and after treatment of several individuals who had undergone various degrees of cosmetic dentistry. Each picture was classified by the perception of change created by the “smile makeover.” The photographs were defined as mild, moderate and extreme in regards to the change in appearance (none of the subjects in the photos had catastrophic or grossly deformed smiles to begin with). They were asked to rate each individual they viewed on a scale of 1 to 10 (“1” equaling “no change at all” and “10” equaling “extreme change) for 10 different character traits including “intelligence,” “happiness”  and “degree of success.”

While the amount of the cosmetic change between the two photos in each set may be viewed as “not dramatic,” the change in perceptions of those who viewed the photo sets made a definite impact on the measurements. Every category saw a significant improvement in scoring for each pictured individual when comparing the before photos to the photos after cosmetic dentistry. The most significant improvements in character traits occurred in the categories of “attractiveness,” “wealthy” and “popular with the opposite sex.”

Beyond personal and social perceptions, smiling is also viewed as a key component in gaining cooperation, especially among strangers, in a variety of human interactions and transactions. In other words, as the late Dale Carnegie might have put it, a smile is contagious. It can help you “win friends and influence people.”

In 1999, scientists from a variety of disciplines, including zoology and economics, put this idea to the test. More than 100 subjects participated in a game with the object of making a simple “one-shot” bargaining deal (based on trust) with another participant whom they had not met. They had, however, seen photos of the other contestants — under controlled conditions — of either their bargaining partner smiling or not smiling. The results lent support to the idea that game partners previously viewed as smiling had a greater chance of eliciting trust and completing the bargain.

Information provided by Dr. Dennis Winter, Iowa Dental Arts, P.C., 2651 Beaver Ave., 277-6657.

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