People smile in social interactions to convey different types of nonverbal communication. However, smiling can potentially change the way a person is perceived along different facial dimensions, including perceived age. It is commonly assumed that smiling faces are perceived as younger than faces carrying a neutral expression. In the series of experiments reported here, I describe an unintuitive and robust effect in the opposite direction. Across different experimental conditions and stimulus sets, smiling faces were consistently perceived as older compared to neutral face photos of the same persons. I suggest that this effect is due to observer failure to ignore smile-associated wrinkles, mainly along the region of the eyes. These findings point to a misconception regarding the relationship between facial smile and perceived age and shed new light on the processes underlying human age perception.
- Age evaluations
- Face perception
- Facial expression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)