Smile When You Speak

“You are never fully dressed without a smile,” sang Little Orphan Annie in the old Broadway musical. It turns out Annie may have been giving some shrewd advice.

Studies have repeatedly shown that people remember smiling faces better than neutral ones. Researchers at Duke University have found a physical explanation for the phenomenon.

Robert Cabeza and his colleagues “introduced” volunteers to a number of people by showing them a picture and telling them a name. Using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the investigators found that both learning and recalling the names associated with smiling faces preferentially activated the orbitofrontal cortex, a processing area of the brain.

Although the studies are preliminary, it makes evolutionary sense that a smile would engender positive feelings. Smile at a baby, and the infant smiles back. Our brains are very sensitive to positive social signals.

These signals can be auditory as well as visual. You can even detect a smile in a person’s voice when on the telephone. Try this next time you make a phone call.You will be amazed at the results—both for yourself and for the listener.