It’s a familiar image – a cornered animal bares its fangs sending an unmistakable message to back off. But did you know that a number of researchers believe this aggressive act was the precursor to smiling?
Ancient Smiles Were Different From Today
Janice Porteous, a professor of philosophy at Canada’s Vancouver Island University, explains that smiles in animals are “a facial expression that originally arose as a scare tactic, [then] evolved to communicate the message: ‘I recognize your superior status, so please go easy on me.’” Her example: when higher primates such as rhesus monkeys were threatened by the arrival of a clearly more dominant and aggressive member of the tribe, they, too, flashed their fangs, but this time the message was “Hey, no worries. You’re the boss. We’re cool.”
OK. We might be anthropomorphizing just a bit, but the underlying message is supported by Charles Darwin himself who suggested in his book The Expression of Emotions in Men and Animals, that humans may have co-opted the behavior of animals baring their teeth.
Smiles Have Had Many Meanings Throughout Time
Regardless of origin, it’s certainly true that smiles have many and varied meanings. Who among us hasn’t flashed our own frozen “back off” smile once or twice? Or smiled in response to a myriad of emotions including sadness, confusion, despair and anxiety as well as more positive emotions including satisfaction, hope, encouragement, silliness, love and joy.
Dr. Nakia Gordon, an assistant professor of psychology and emotion expert at Marquette University takes things a step further by focusing on the power of a smile. She says, “In some situations, [smiles] may even help us regulate how we feel.” Countless studies offer proof that the act of smiling itself can actually make us feel better. Confirming the transformative power of a smile Gordon says, “smiles do not merely represent and communicate how we feel to others, they also help us experience those feelings more robustly.”
In our dental practice, this information all boils down to the simple truth that your smile is powerful and important. Which is why our passion is making that smile as strong, healthy and beautiful as possible. Come see what our top-rated Beverly Hills dental practice can do for your all-important smile. Call us at 310-659-5399 or use our handy online appointment form.