The Economic Effects Of An Open Smile...
How do we judge people on meeting them? There's been a lot of research, and subsequent writing, about this in recent years; even more has cascaded since last November's election, given its surprise to many.
Among the key things some look for: Intelligence and the amount of education one has; partisan beliefs, and general attitudes towards others (compassion, openness to progress, etc.); and probably most importantly, whether someone's rich or poor, or in possession of the skills to do better in their lives.
"Research suggests that the face alone might provide clues to someone's social class, especially for those who know how to look," reads a recent story on a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that's making the rounds. "Generally speaking, we pick up hints on a person's socioeconomic status by looking for more obvious markers, things that are buyable or learnable — clothes, watches, comportment, manner of speech... But we really don't need any of these clues to know someone's social class: The face alone can be our guide."
It seems that those making over $150,000 a year (which the authors designated upper class) and under $35,000 a year (which the authors designated lower class) can be judged based on elements of happiness and contentment affecting a face.
"Once we figured out it was these subtle emotional expressions, it makes a lot of sense that the mouth would be showing most of that, because the mouth is what you mostly use, especially with positive emotions, like smiling," said the study, which also pointed towards eyes and the area that surrounds them. "Crow's-feet around eyes refer to contractions of their reticular oculi muscles, which are activated when someone smiles."
Yikes, I say. And how does all this tie into other studies that find income is more often than not tied to family circumstances... or that the way people hire for higher-paying jobs is based on bias towards wealth? (The researchers, it should be noted, also found that faces belonging to wealthier people were perceived as significantly more likely to land a job).
We are reminded of all the studies that have been piling up, as well, about backgrounds, and wealth, and educational achievements, and political leanings. And most importantly about the ways in which we treat others in a larger society and, even more importantly, within the context of our communities.
At which point I reached out to another missive that came our way this week: A piece from a fracking advocate that spoke about ways in which poor communities can turn themselves around that, while heralding an economic driver most in our region have rejected, did point out several ways in which communities can help themselves up by their own bootstraps, instead of pinning all their hopes on outside political promises.
The concepts put forth were simple: the taking of initiative by a community itself; the marketing of that initiative within and, even more importantly, outside a community to draw in those who can really make new efforts work; and the use of optimism and "contagion" to spread the idea of prosperity so it can take hold beyond whatever initial initiative has started to work.
We believe these concepts, though, need to include elements at play in the idea we started discussing here earlier: as in those ways we read others, and react to our own biases towards strangers' happiness, wealth, education, politics and overall openness. In an area like ours, whose economic engines are not fully our own but based on our position within a greater region dominated by New York City and its hold on the rest of the world's attention (and checkbooks), as well as an increasing number of rapidly-changing communities in our Hudson Valley and Catskills, it is important that we use our initiative and spread contagion to those with deep pockets. Which means being able to escape our own fears and depression and recognize potential in others, responding to it with openness.
Sure, brusqueness and rigidity is popular in some circles... but it's not what's making for success in our region. Or anywhere, really, beyond those harnessing existing waves of dissatisfaction.
Smile, everyone... and learn to make those smiles contagious. Our futures may all depend on it.