Ibrahim EL Kazaz

Student, Istanbul Bilgi University


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Which is more contagious? The smile or the frown?

What really gets around, who is more powerful the optimist or the pessimist? I wanted to know what TED community thinks about positivity and negativity and is there truly any power in them or does it only depend on the person who carries the smile or the frown. If u walk around with a determined smile on your face will u get as many smiles back as the frowns u would get with a determined frown on your face? I just wanted some discussion, that my even be connected to the lord of the flies concept of innate Evil, or are we purely good?

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    Gail .

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    Aug 1 2012: I've tested this at Walmart. Walk around with your usual face for about 20 minutes (pushing a cart). Then, change your expression to one of great happiness. Big sincere smile, body upright. looking around. People will suddenly say things to you, compliment you, thank you, and respond in other ways. I'd say that the smile is more infectious.

    I tested this another way years ago. I was a smoker who would go out the back door and smoke on the stoop by the parking lot. One day I wondered if a smile is infectious, so I began smiling at people as they came to work. It was amazing. People started smiling back - and waving. And they were happier when they got out of their cars to come into the building - waving and saying hello to co-workers on their way in. Yes, a smile is infectious.
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      Aug 1 2012: here's my question though, if u had walked around Walmart with a gloomy face instead of a passive one, would u have gotten any less attention and compliments, would u have actually gotten called out for it instead? If u tried to give negative energy would u get more negative energy, than the amount of positive energy u got when u smiled?
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        Gail .

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        Aug 2 2012: This is something that you can easily test yourself - in any marketplace
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        Aug 2 2012: Ibrahim and Gail,
        I've never had the desire to intentionally wear a "gloomy" face, but there are plenty of times when I've had a neutral face. I notice that there is very little reaction/interaction created with neutrality.

        I've noticed all my life that wearing a smile encourages connection. It sends the message that we are open to the flow of energy between people. I am often approached, people start talking to me, connecting, complimenting, etc., and I do the same of course, because it creates a WONDERFUL personal exchange for all those involved. Even observers to this process enjoy it.

        This happens all the time if we are open to the possibilities. I was biking with my "play group" the other day and we stopped in a little town for lunch. We went in different directions, and as I was passing a woman on the street....we both smiled and made eye contact....we ended up talking for half an hour. At the end of the conversation, when my group was ready to leave, my new friend and I gave each other a hug and parted. When I went back to the group, they were all smiling and asked..."do you know her". I said..."well I do now"! They all started laughing because they already KNOW I smile and talk to people wherever we go!!! LOL:>)

        A smiling, open demeanor simply opens the channels to communication and connection with people....it's a choice which I LOVE!

        Yes, I think/feel that sometimes when we give out energy that is not loving and encouraging, that is what we attract to us as well. That being said, there are indeed times when we are kind and loving to someone and that person simply cannot respond to us in that way because of his/her own "stuff".
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    Aug 1 2012: I think human nature is more inclined to be happy, not sad. So smiles > frowns in contagiousness.
    • Aug 1 2012: James, I just tried to give you a thumbs up on this response of yours, but I could not because I used up all the thumbs up I can give you on other threads of conversation. I want you to know that I agree with you. One impact of smiling and reacting to smiles is that one is more likely to want to be around the smiler. If you increase your time around people who smile, you are more likely to increase your own quantity of smiles and the world's quantity of smiles.
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        Aug 1 2012: haha, thanks for letting me know! I've been getting a lot of these kinds of comments lately, so that can only tell me I'm doing something right :)

        Each one of these kinds of comments really do mean a ton to me, it makes me think that I've chosen a good place to be :)
        • Aug 1 2012: Glad you appreciate your value and realize that many of your contemporaries appreciate you too.. Right on, write on!
  • Aug 2 2012: Both, i guess . Do mirror neurons discriminate ?

    But i don't think they reflect a 'determined' smile/ frown, whatever it is smile or frown , it must be sincere to be spread :)
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      Aug 2 2012: Great question Natasha! I believe that everything in the body/mind is interconnected. So, do we "feel" the interaction because of the neurons? Conscious/subconscious? Intuition? Instinct? I tend to think/feel that it is everything working together?

      I agree that it must be sincere to spread:>)
      • Aug 3 2012: Hi, Colleen !

        I am not an expert, really, but i guess, that mirror neurons is a kind of a biological reminder about the illusion of our perception.
        We think that we are separate individuals, but we are not :)
        If you are interested , check out here

        Thanks for responding !
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          Aug 6 2012: Hi Natasha,
          I watched Ramachandran's videos when I first visited TED a couple years ago....LOVE him, his delivery and research.

          I'm not an expert on smiling either.....or wait a minute.....maybe I am.......I've certainly done it enough...LOL:>)

          I totally agree.....we are all interconnected.....more the same than different...I appreciate the reminder....thanks:>)
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    Aug 2 2012: Both smiles and frowns are a duality and according to oriental wisdom, these two opposites are in an eternal battle that can not be won. The exit from this battle requires us to transcend such human emotions and realize that we are neither good nor evil, or that we are both. We simply are. When we realize this, we see that laughing or crying are colors that we paint our lives with. Personally I prefer laughing and smiling but I know people that find fulfillment in frowns and distress. So, in my world, smiles are a big WIN!
  • Aug 2 2012: I'm so happy to see that more and more people are realizing the power of smile and it's becoming a habit for me to smile to myself and others .
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      Aug 2 2012: It is a GREAT habit Andrew! And we KNOW that smiling/laughing is good medicine. It actually releases endorphins in the brain which are healing, and reduce pain.
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    Aug 2 2012: The yawn people. The yawn.
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      Lejan .

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      Aug 2 2012: Yes, but it only works with people you like or at least the ones you don't mind. It is not easy to try this out, as it means you have to choose the company of people you don't like and wait for them to yarn. But once I heard about it I was unlucky enought to have this chance and voila - it did not effect me at all! :o)

      Does anyone else share this experience?
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    Aug 1 2012: The straight face.
  • Aug 1 2012: It's not about how optimistic/pessimistic someone is, it's about being active.

    Carrying around a determined smile or frown doesn't matter at all if one is passive, and has no real intent of utilizing that contained energy for a good cause.
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      Aug 1 2012: AAH, but being active is not so simple and easy, sometimes people need a shove in the right direction, a little glimmer of that positive energy to get them going. I would argue that whether u have a smile on ur face or a frown actually affects the productivity of urself and ur fellow co-workers a LOT. U will get hit by the bad and the good in life, which one u choose to carry on ur face affects whether u will be able to carry anything at all when things truly look bleak
      • Aug 2 2012: Agreed, a nudge into the right direction would be a good thing. Could you propose a way how could people be influenced in that way?

        Keep in mind, though, that constructive pessimism or optimism should not be confused with lamenting or affectation.
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    Aug 1 2012: I think smiles are much more contagious. Thinking only of my own experience, I cannot imagine returning a frown but will always return a smile.
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      Aug 1 2012: But that's part of my point, u wont notice urself frowning in response to a frown, but u will take the effort to change ur smile into a laugh. Walk around tomorrow with a frown on ur face and watch the effect it has. Ppl will effortlessly and without notice change smiles into frowns. BUT when u see a smile, and recognize it in ur brain, then u smile back almost forcing urself to look at the world in a way to feel better and smile
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        Aug 1 2012: I'll pass but will read of other people's experiences if they try your experiment.
  • Aug 1 2012: Suppose they are equally contagious. I suspect the wise person would choose to smile, knowing the impacts of doing that on others and on herself or himself. You, for example, seem smart enough to choose smiling over frowning and you realize that you have the power to choose. Congratulations on co-creating yourself to be the way you are right now. Glad to see you are thinking for yourself. Right on, dude!
  • Aug 7 2012: The smile. (some people look funny when they frown and some people look funny when they laugh). Funny looks make people smile.
  • Aug 3 2012: I think a smile is more contagious. I see smiling like bees spreading pollen - positivity cannot (and will not) be contained. Frowning, and negativity, are like crabs in a barrel. You won't be subject to the crabs if you're nowhere near the barrel. I do think people are innately more good than evil, although, as with anything, you have your flat ends of the bell curve - pure good and pure evil. Even though I think people are mostly positive, it seems negative people work harder trying to recruit miserable company.
  • Aug 3 2012: We need to remind ourselves to be happy. We never hear about people in the pursuit of sadness. We pursue happiness as a goal. I hate to say it, but the frown wins :(
  • Aug 2 2012: Ibrahim, You are important in the co-creation of a good future for Egypt. Let go of the ways of the dead power and control freaks who tried to control you and others probably because they could not control themselves. They have kept the people of Egypt down in poverty and unhappiness. You are the hope of the future of Egypt because you respect people of other cultures and religions. Take the best of all cultures and religions and economic systems and get them implemented within Egypt and your nation may then soar to heights it has never seen before. Keep interacting with people all over the world from all walks of life. Make that revolution pay off. Truth works. Honesty in government is the secret. Respect for people with different beliefs is vital. Congratulations on co-creating yourself and the future Egypt to be powerfully positive. Optimism.....YES! Positive anything and everything....YES!
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    Aug 2 2012: It is easier to destroy than to build; and happiness is a decision.
    It is easier for a bad mood to spread than it is for someone, whose house would soon been repossessed by a bank, to smile because the security guard at a mall smiled while saying 'good morning'.
  • Aug 2 2012: If I had to choose, (o), I guess it would (o) be the yawn
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    Aug 2 2012: Perhaps the yawn
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    Aug 2 2012: Hello Ibrahim El Kazaz. There is huge power to positivity and negativity. Not sure if you like Maths. Suggest you look at Fibonacci 0,1,1,2,3. The problem today is a lack of balance. The smile and the frown are some of the earliest ways human beings as a global species communicate. Watch the New Zealand Rugby Team, the Maori Haka or war dance. It is a threat with gestures to say back off. Ultimately it is all about breathing. When you smile or grimace you are boosting your bodies oxygenation as you breathe in. When you frown you are expressing excess carbon dioxide and other gases. It increases your energy levels quite dramatically. Huge bonus for anyone about to need excessive energy in short bursts and works even better for women because they are genetically designed for endurance. The insect thing is also important. Nature uses insects for positive and negative purposes, there are insects that are vital for plant life because they pollinate, the indication of this is the number of butterfies, the most useful ones for people are bees. Then there are the insects that bite and sting. These are nature's clean up kit. Think about the roles of insects in your cultural heritage. Do you want butterflies and bees or mosquitos. Think, observe and notice. Keep communicating.
  • Aug 2 2012: Misery loves company because it is the path of least resistance. Optimism is more powerful. It provides hope.
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      Aug 2 2012: I agree Lisa that misery sometimes loves company, and people will sometimes try to draw us into their discontent.

      How is misery "the path of least resistance"? I believe misery (state of great unhappiness and emotional distress) IS resistance. Feeling miserable, is often caused by resisting acceptance of circumstances.

      I agree that optimism is powerful and provides hope:>)
  • Aug 1 2012: Smiles beat frowns and make everyone feel better,
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      Aug 1 2012: I agree smiles are better, but are they more powerful???
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        Aug 2 2012: Yes, smiles are more contagious...be a carrier:>)

        I've done a lot of experimenting with smiles, and most often simply LIKE wearing a smile because it feels better to me! It also seems to connect with people around the world, which I LOVE. Smiles lift one's spirits, as well as all those around us. It does not work the same to wear a "determined smile", as you say in your introduction Ibrahim, it has more power when it is genuinely coming from the heart:>)

        I must tell you Ibrahim, that I got a surprise in Egypt because of smiling! I most often have a smile on my face, and I make eye contact with all those I meet. I seemed to be attracting a lot of men, and I didn't know why. I befriended an older gentleman, and asked him what he thought of this. He laughed, and told me that in his culture, smiling and looking men in the eye suggests that I want to have a relationship with them. I drew back on the smile and eye contact with men after learning that!!! LOL:>)
  • Aug 1 2012: If you are with people who are optimistic who wish to be happy the smile will probably be more contagious

    With pessimistic people the frown may feel better.
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      Aug 1 2012: that sounds a bit masochistic imo if people feel better by frowning...

      Meh, I wouldn't know I guess...
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    Aug 1 2012: I say both.One can't really decide because the smile is good. Then the frown would also be good in a way that the other person will find it kind of intersting to see if he or she could change that frown into a smile. :)