Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life

Abstract

Based on social–functional accounts of emotion, we conducted two studies examining whether the degree to which people smiled in photographs predicts the likelihood of divorce. Along with other theorists, we posited that smiling behavior in photographs is potentially indicative of underlying emotional dispositions that have direct and indirect life consequences. In the first study, we examined participants’ positive expressive behavior in college yearbook photos and in Study 2 we examined a variety of participants’ photos from childhood through early adulthood. In both studies, divorce was predicted by the degree to which subjects smiled in their photos.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be noted that in a follow-up study, many of these findings were not replicated in a more diverse sample (Freese et al. 2006). However, these researchers employed a different system of coding for the smile intensity of their participants. More specifically, instead of coding the smiles along a continuum like Harker and Keltner (2001), they coded expressions trichotomously (no smile, Duchenne smile, or non-Duchenne smile) which yielded a more gross assessment of smiling behavior. These researchers attempted to adopt Harker and Keltner’s coding procedure, but were dissatisfied with the inter-rater agreement achieved. The discrepancy in coding procedure likely contributed to the lack of replication of Harker and Keltner’s results.

  2. 2.

    The same is true for Freese et al.’s (2006) follow-up study.

  3. 3.

    We also analyzed the data using logistic regression techniques entering the dichotomous variable (divorce) as the criterion variable and the average smiling score as the predictor variable. Overall, the analyses yielded the same pattern of results as those presented in Table 1.

  4. 4.

    Like study 1, we also analyzed the data using logistic regression techniques entering the dichotomous variable (divorce) as the criterion variable and the average smiling score as the predictor variable. Overall, the analyses yielded the same pattern of results as those presented in Table 1.

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Correspondence to Matthew J. Hertenstein.

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This research was supported by DePauw University’s Faculty Development Program, as well as the Asher Fund.

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Hertenstein, M.J., Hansel, C.A., Butts, A.M. et al. Smile intensity in photographs predicts divorce later in life. Motiv Emot 33, 99–105 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-009-9124-6

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Keywords

  • Emotion
  • Positive emotion
  • Divorce