Can a Yearbook Photo predict future happiness?

Dan Miller of the Nashville News wrote this article about a study of yearbook photos and smiling. I’ve pasted the article below, but if you want to read the original, click here.

“The other day a friend mentioned to me some provocative research he heard discussed concerning high school yearbook photos.

“Apparently the study concluded that people who had been smiling in their yearbook photos were happier, more contented people 30 or 40 years later, when compared to those who weren’t smiling. The researchers also used some method to determine whether the smile was a big, genuine smile, or a “forced smile” like the one on the nerdy guy shown here.

“I went online trying to locate that research…. and while I couldn’t track down that particular study, I did find some compelling facts about smiling.

“For example, researchers somewhere studied more than 16,000 photos of students from kindergarten to college and discovered that girls and women smile more frequently than boys or men. This didn’t surprise me…. but, just for the record, I went back through my personal high school and college yearbooks and did a quick count of smiling faces.

“Sure enough… they were right… the number of smiling young women was far greater than the smiling young men. Of course the girls had reason to smile. Most of them had fresh, attractive faces, whereas many of the guys looked like the doofus pictured here. Here was another interesting part…. up until about the 4th grade, boys and girls smiled about equally…. but then, at around age 9 or 10, the girls started smiling more than the boys, a pattern that continued right into adulthood.

“Part of the reason, I suppose, is that when you’re about to have your picture made, you have to make a quick decision whether to smile or not smile. Girls just naturally seem to want a pretty smile, while boys seem to prefer the angst-filled persona of a James Dean or Marlon Brando…. hoping to avoid forever being haunted by the toothy grin of a Wayne Newton-style publicity shot.

“Or it could be because photographers will often ask their subjects to practice smiling. No self-respecting guy likes to admit he’s gonna stand in front of the mirror practicing his smile.
But based on personal observations of my sisters and daughters, it seems to me that young girls can often spend hours at the mirror practicing — not only how to smile — but the proper angle to hold their heads while smiling.

“So the bottom line here for young people is… when you get your yearbook photo taken, smile…. it’ll pay big dividends in happiness somewhere far down the road. And make it a big, genuine smile… not the halfhearted variety like the dork pictured next to this column. I’ll close with a nice little thought about smiling, from an anonymous writer, that I happened across on the internet:

“A smile costs nothing, but gives so much.
It enriches those who receive, without making poorer those who give.
It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
None is so rich or mighty that he can get along without it, and none is so poor but that he can be made rich by it.
A smile creates happiness in the home, fosters goodwill in business, and is the countersign of friendship.
It brings rest to the weary, cheer to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and it is nature’s best antidote for trouble.
Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away.
Some people are too tired to give you a smile.
Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give.”

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