Hey, Smiley Readers!
Nice pearly whites! Smiles are infectious, rewarding, and communicative. We know a lot about smiling. For instance, we use 42 muscles in order to smile, simply smiling can put us in a better mood, and this facial expression is most recognizable as a welcoming, warm show of friendliness or love.
But for as much as we know about smiling, we don’t know for sure how it is that smiling came to mean what it does among us humans. After all, we’re the only animal on earth that do it. And, what’s more, the act of baring teeth across the animal kingdom typically is used to threaten or display a warning.
So when most other animals across the world use the visibility of their teeth as a sign of danger, how did humans start interpreting this gesture as a show of friendliness?
Our smiling faces have been traced back 30 million years in which our earliest ancestors started using a sort of code among each other. Human ancestors along with other types of primates were able to distinguish the difference between baring one’s teeth with a frightening open mouth and showing your clenched teeth with barely opening your mouth at all.
A show of clenched teeth was meant to indicate to predators that you were harmless and submissive. The idea is that different species developed their own inside understanding of this gesture—especially so in human beings.
Obviously, in our modern day, a smile has come to mean much more than just a sign of submission. In fact, smiles have taken on a versatile role in our culture, capable of communicating such emotions as love, happiness, delight, pride, hatred, even embarrassment.
Be sure to share your friendly smile with those you love today and enjoy celebrating National Smile Day. And, as always, thanks for smiling—errr—I mean, reading!