Does It Take More Muscles To Smile Or Frown?

Psychology Facts / Friday, February 17th, 2023

You’ve likely been told that it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown and that, in light of this fact, you should smile more often. There are quite a few numbers that get tossed around when this line is used. Some claim it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile, while others swear it takes 26 to smile and 62 to frown. Meanwhile, some naysayers claim it’s quite the opposite: it takes more muscles to smile than to frown. But it’s not just about the number. It’s also about how often you use them. While it might take more¬†muscles to smile, since most people tend to crack a smile at some point in the day, the muscles involved could perform the task a little easier.

Muscles for smiling or frowning

facial muscles when smile and frownWhen we smile, the zygomaticus major and minor muscles are typically used. The zygomaticus major muscle starts at the top of the cheekbone and pulls the corners of our mouth upwards and towards the eyes, creating a “smiling” expression. The zygomaticus minor muscle is located near the corner of our eyes and helps to lift them slightly when we smile. Other facial muscles may create different smiles, such as wide-eyed or closed-eye smiles.

When we frown, the frontalis muscle is usually used. This muscle is located at the top of our face and pulls our eyebrows together and down, creating a “frowning” expression. Other muscles in the face, such as the procerus and corrugator supercilii muscles, may also be used to deepen a frown. Additionally, contractions in the Platysma muscle located in the neck can create downward pressure on the upper lip, which adds depth to a frowning expression.

Explain how the muscles work together to express emotions.

Smiling and frowning are expressions that are created through the use of different muscles on our faces. For example, when we smile, the zygomaticus major and minor muscles pull the corners of the mouth upwards towards our eyes, creating a “smiling” expression. Similarly, when we frown, the frontalis muscle pulls our eyebrows together and down, resulting in a frowning expression. While some facial expressions may be involuntary due to emotions like surprise or shock, others like smiling and frowning are generally voluntary and can be used to convey various emotions.

Smiling Or Frowning Muscles

While nobody could possibly tell you with accuracy exactly how many muscles you use when you smile (43? 17? 26?), it’s possible to tell you the minimum number of muscles that are used in the most insincere, subtle, restrained, mouth-only smile or frown.

smile or frownIf we analyze a smile that only raises the corners of the lips and the upper lip (the smile you give when you bump into your former boss in the grocery store, perhaps), then there are five muscle pairs (or ten total muscles) that accomplish this. Two muscle pairs primarily raise the upper lip, while three other muscle pairs are tasked mainly with raising the corners of the mouth.

If we reduce a frown only to the lowering of the corners of the mouth along with a slight downward pouting of the lower lip, we’re dealing with only three muscle pairs (one pair to drop the lower lip and two pairs to lower the corners).

Counted individually (as you might count your biceps to be two different muscles instead of one muscle pair), we reach a tally that very well may turn our understanding of the universe completely on end: 10 muscles to smile and six muscles to frown.

But before you abandon your smile for a look of mild disappointment in order to conserve energy, consider that we can reduce both a smile and a frown even further so that each is produced merely by raising or lowering the corners of the mouth into a robotic expression. In this case, we have a tie: two muscle pairs (for a total of four) to “smile” and the same number to “frown.”

While such expressions would hardly be recognized as a good smile or frown, the fact that the same amount of effort is used to produce one or the other means that the scientific minds of this generation and the next will have to continue searching for a good reason for humans to put a smile on their faces — and not a frown of equal but opposing effort.



Benefits of Smiling and Frowning: Positivity Starts with the Face

What people first notice about you when you walk into a room is what expression you carry on your face. It’s the true first impression that most people perceive, and it may be the only impression that some people ever get to deduce from you, depending upon how busy your day or their own is.

A friendly smile makes it far easier to work with others and even easier to hold a note of optimism for the entirety of the day. A smile makes work faster and more efficient. It can even reinforce the attitudes of children and other adults around you so that they can work without being bound by the fear of failure.

That’s why positivity and everything beneficial it can bring always starts with something as simple as a smile. There’s no replacement for one. It’s the most powerful and widely available tool at anyone’s disposal.

Remember: smiling affects not only you but others around you. If you’re in a happy mood, don’t hold back on flashing a toothy grin at those you come in contact with, as you never know who may need it.

How does frowning affect our bodies?

wrinkles as you frownFrowning has been linked to a range of physiological effects on the body. It can cause an increase in heart rate, muscle tension, and even adrenaline levels. Additionally, studies have found that people who frown frequently are more likely to experience higher levels of stress and depression than those who don’t. Frowning can also affect our facial muscles, causing them to weaken over time if used too often.

The psychological impact of facial expressions on emotions

Facial expressions can profoundly affect our emotions, influencing how we feel and think in the present moment. Studies have found that when we mimic facial expressions – such as smiling, frowning, or raising our eyebrows – our brains become aroused and react according to the presentation. For example, when we mimic a smile (even if it’s forced), it can trigger positive feelings such as happiness or joy. On the other hand, mimicking a frowning expression can lead to feelings of sadness or anxiety. Facial expressions can also shape how people perceive us in social situations; for example, studies show that people who smile more often are perceived as more friendly and approachable than those who don’t.


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