Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

Smiling Makes You Look Older…to Israelis Only!

What is worse psychological science, when it shows what everyone already knew (people who look sad on average feel sadder than those who don’t) or when it “proves” nonsense that no one may ever accept?

On the latter, an Israeli-Canadian duo has now published that smiling will make you look … older. In the News: Smiling for the camera makes you look older, Smiling makes you look older, Israeli researchers find, Study: The effects of smiling on perceived age defy belief. Sure, and the moon is made of cheese.

They didn’t leave it at that. After the subjects rated someone smiling older than someone serious, they (wrongly) remembered that they looked younger when smiling. From that must stem the common erroneous “wisdom” that smiling must make you look younger. Really.

And then they found that people look their very youngest when they look very surprised, because then all the creases, lines and wrinkles flatten out. Pull the other leg — it has bells on it.

Never mind how implausible, the media gobbled it up as if the greatest wisdom has been revealed. Don’t pause — publish! Googling today can find you already at least dozens of links to this nonsense from outlets the world over. The chutzpah of the researchers payed off. They declared with great confidence that they have found the truth and others were just mistaken. Then that must be true, no?

How to investigate this, and show where it went wrong.

1. The piece makes fun of popular knowledge which differs from their findings. However, that is the wrong reference for a supposedly scientific article. It should have compared its findings with what colleagues have found before. They do that in a sort of afterthought:

They quote from 2015: Study: Smiling makes you look older, the Israeli researcher is quoting himself. That’s a great way to find agreement.

Then they quote from 2011 (they wrongly date it 2012): In the news: Smiling Makes You Look Younger, Smiling Can Make Women Look Three Years Younger, Reveals Study, Study: Let Me Guess How Old You Are: Effects of Age, Gender, and Facial Expression on Perceptions of Age by a German-US duo – a much larger study, more subjects and more issues, comparing: angry, fearful, disgusted, happy, sad and neutral expressions. They found: “the age of faces displaying happy expressions was most likely underestimated.” Of course.

Then they quote from 2016: In the news: Want to Look Younger and Thinner? Smile!, Study: Be Happy Not Sad for Your Youth: The Effect of Emotional Expression on Age Perception by three US scientists. They found that people who look sad are judged older and who look happy are judged younger than with a neutral expression. Of course.

Now, this new study performs a fantastic trick. It says: Since there is no agreement (between themselves and others) the literature on the subject “is inconsistent” and so there is room for bringing something new. Never mind that they bring the outlier data compared to what others found, and that they should explain the difference.

2. When scientists find different results from other, they should first try to question their own findings. That is science. Not as done here, only play down the findings of others. That is not science. That is politics.

3. I tried to establish if the new study was published in a peer-reviewed publication, but I have not found such description of the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Yes, it commits itself to abide by the “Committee on Publication Ethics,” which sounds impressive but that only deals with authorship – not scientific fraud or incompetence. Yes, it has an impressive editorial board, but that doesn’t mean that any of them would review articles before publication!

Now, let us do some of the work that these researchers, editors and journalists seem to have skipped.

A. Smiling is greatly overvalued in the US. Middle-class USers smile when they’re suicidal. Great teeth, lousy honesty.

In contrast, Israelis hate fake, especially fake smiles. Israeli school kids will not smile for the photographer. “How can I smile when I don’t feel like smiling?” Also blank faces Israelis don’t like, but they also don’t mind them. Rather, Israelis like drama. So, shocked faces look the best to an Israeli.

B. Age is greatly undervalued in the US. When you’re old, you have had your day.

Age in Israeli is greatly appreciated, like in most world cultures different from the West.

C. Oh, yes, this thing with checking what the test subjects remembered: Israelis have no memory. I have no idea how anyone in Israel distinguishes people with Alzheimer from the rest of the population. When you ask an Israeli: Could you please repeat the last sentence you said, s/he will typically say: What did I just now say? – and have no idea. Experienced teachers in Hebrew say every sentence twice or trice —¬†with a different intonation but word-for-word the same. So to prove anything from Israelis’ memory is never a proof.

Therefore, you can’t just compare outlying exceptional results of Israeli experiments on smiling and age, with similar US experiments. And especially not, declare the US findings less good, just like that.

No, not the results of this new study are counter-intuitive. All of Israel is counter-intuitive. A proper interpretation of the newest findings is most likely not that smiling makes you look older, but rather that drama and old age makes you look good to an Israeli.

About the Author
To subscribe to his next blog posts, click on the circle next to the blogger's picture, containing a dot with two quarter circles around it (the Feed Computer icon). * The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many people can't understand or like him because he has such a wide vision that he never fits any specialist's box. But that exactly what others love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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