College yearbook smiles predict likelihood of divorce

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,777
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Awww, nuts... I hate smiling in photographs. :eek:

http://www.nytimes.com/projects/magazine/ideas/2009/#p-1

NYT said:
Say cheese and stay married? Yes, according to Matthew Hertenstein, a psychology professor at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. He and three colleagues recruited more than 600 people for a review of their college yearbook photos. The researchers rated the yearbook smiles by coding muscle movements around the mouth and the eyes.

The researchers found a surprising correlation: the less people smiled, the more likely they were to later divorce. The effect was statistically significant, though not huge. But when Hertenstein compared the top 10 percent of brightest smilers with the bottom 10 percent of weakest smilers, the "lowest were five times more likely to be divorced than the top."

The researchers also recruited 51 people to submit photos of their choosing. The relationship between smiling and staying married held even for the photographs this group submitted — posed and candid shots from when the subjects were, on average, 10 years old. "I'm more confident in the smiling effect because it held even with a) childhood and b) candid photos," Hertenstein says. Studying smiles in photos is only the latest in what has come to be called "thin slice" research, popularized in the book "Blink," a couple of best sellers ago from Malcolm Gladwell. For example, from very short video clips, research volunteers have determined with surprising accuracy the personality, socioeconomic status and sexual orientation of those on camera. A still photograph is merely an extremely wafer-thin slice.

The why of the smiling effect remains elusive. Hertenstein acknowledges potentially "dozens" of possible explanations, going with perhaps the most straightforward and benign. He says his "gut inclination is that people who smile on average in their photos have a positive disposition that serves them well in life and relationships."

He cautions that his study is "not destiny." Readers who frowned in their yearbook photos are not putting off the inevitable if they fail to rush to court to file for divorce. "There are plenty of people who defy the odds," offers the professor, only slightly reassuringly.
 

mscriv

macrumors 601
Aug 14, 2008
4,917
596
Dallas, Texas
Still happily married.

Will be working on marriage number 5 by the time she's 40.

Quite the funny article. It's amazing how we can make studies and statistics say pretty much anything we want.
 

mkrishnan

Moderator emeritus
Original poster
Jan 9, 2004
29,777
12
Grand Rapids, MI, USA
Quite the funny article. It's amazing how we can make studies and statistics say pretty much anything we want.
I don't think that's fair (or it belies a fundamental lack of understanding about statistics). The effect they found is there -- whether it means anything useful is another point entirely, but it's still interesting. Statistics is a great tool for understanding human behavior, and honestly, most people who use it for that purpose do not overly abuse it.
 

GoCubsGo

macrumors Nehalem
Feb 19, 2005
35,753
146
I never got a yearbook in college.

But in high school I barely smiled in my picture so ...
 

mscriv

macrumors 601
Aug 14, 2008
4,917
596
Dallas, Texas
I don't think that's fair (or it belies a fundamental lack of understanding about statistics). The effect they found is there -- whether it means anything useful is another point entirely, but it's still interesting. Statistics is a great tool for understanding human behavior, and honestly, most people who use it for that purpose do not overly abuse it.
I admit that the authors of this study do state that what they have found is a correlation and that there could be any number of reasons for which a divorce is caused. I'm assuming the last comment about people being able to "defy the odds" was said in jest.

I simply don't like how statistics are improperly used by many to support their own pre-existing stance on an issue. The other problem is that many out there do not even understand correlations and incorrectly assume that research and statistics describe or prove cause and effect relationships.

While I don't believe this study was done in order to uncover any real truths behind divorce there are people out there who manipulate data or exaggerate conclusions. You are correct in stating that it's all dependent upon who is conducting the research and the hope is that major studies are conducted in an ethical manner with cautious and realistic application beyond the study itself.
 

Rt&Dzine

macrumors 6502a
Oct 8, 2008
736
5
Only one of these famous smilers has NOT been divorced.

3ofthw.jpg

But they are probably high school photos.
 

63dot

macrumors 603
Jun 12, 2006
5,269
339
norcal
How many people actually care about their college yearbook?
The only college yearbooks I have seen are from the 1940s or before. Most people I know who went to college after that went to schools so big the yearbook would be the size of the Chicago phonebook, or at least a PC laptop from the '90s. ;)

My junior college had 8,000 students when I graduated and my university had 7,000 students when I graduated. Where the heck do you put all those pictures assuming, conservatively, that a third of those 8,000 or a fifth of those 7,000 graduate each year? Either yearbook would be gigantic. My high school yearbook had 800 students in it from all four years, and those hardbound yearbooks were heavy, having used glossy paper, so I gave them away to a fellow alum.
 

Rt&Dzine

macrumors 6502a
Oct 8, 2008
736
5
Wouldn't have recognized the first three without TinEye... I don't think that celebrities - hollywood celebrities at that - are an adequate sample when it comes to divorce frequency in general...
Definitely not a scientific sample—but it was quick and easy to find their yearbook photos online. :)

I have strong face recognition software in my brain. Although it's kind of a useless talent. Can't say that it's helped me much in my life.
 

tkermit

macrumors 68040
Feb 20, 2004
3,434
2,426
I have strong face recognition software in my brain. Although it's kind of a useless talent. Can't say that it's helped me much in my life.
As long as this goes along with easily remembering people's names, it should be anything but useless. People love to be remembered & recognized. I wish I had that talent... :eek:
 

Rt&Dzine

macrumors 6502a
Oct 8, 2008
736
5
As long as this goes along with easily remembering people's names, it should be anything but useless. People love to be remembered & recognized. I wish I had that talent... :eek:
Unfortunately I'm terrible with names . . . unless I've seen it in writing.
 

Little Endian

macrumors 6502a
Apr 9, 2003
677
31
Honolulu
Well duh this is a no brainer..... The Happier an individual is the more likely he or she will be smiling and genuinely so. A single person who is happy on their own accord without seeking happiness from others will be more likely to have more productive relationships and not just in marriage.

Statistics is always so much fun as if you are looking to achieve a Pareto effect you will always find one!! Anyhow I wonder how many colleges actually publish an official yearbook?
 

timerollson

macrumors 65816
Dec 4, 2005
1,207
28
heretothere
I'm pretty sure I'm not in my college's yearbook. The only available dates were scheduled around finals week. -__-

But for the most part, I usually do a closed-mouth smile/smirk out of habit. So, I wonder if I'm likely headed for separation instead haha.
 

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