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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 17 September, 2019
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Grin the money: Research calculates exact value of a smile

A new study finds you can put a price on a smile, after all – but it’s less than half a cent.

Fake smiles have no effect, the research suggests
Fake smiles have no effect, the research suggests
Image: DieselDemon via Flickr

IT’S NICE TO BE smiled at – and we can now put an exact price on each grin we give, thanks to a new study carried out in Wales.

But sadly it’s not a quick route to riches: a smile is worth exactly one-third of a penny sterling, or 0.38c in euro.

The research at Bangor University found that people would be willing to part with extra cash if a salesperson beamed at them, and suggests smiles are a key part of maintaining good business relationships. The low cash value on each grin reflects the fact that we often exchange 10 or 20 smiles in even a short conversation, lead researcher Danielle Shore told the Belfast Telegraph.

She says smiles are a form of “social currency – a valuable reward that people will pay to receive”, the Daily Mail reports. “If the salesperson gives you a genuine smile of pleasure, you will have a positive experience and be likely to buy a nicer car or more add-ons than you originally intended.”

But simply flashing the gnashers isn’t good enough – the smiles have to come from the heart. In the study, 36 volunteers were asked to play a gambling game against a computer animation which would either smile politely – with the mouth only – or ‘genuinely’, with crinkle lines around the eyes too. The game was rigged so that players won more money from the polite computer. But PhD student Shore and her co-researchers found that the volunteers still preferred to play the character with a more sincere smile – suggesting that businesses should be on the lookout for staff with the happiness gene.

What’s more, she suggests, we could all be doing our bit for the country by beaming at each other. Shore told the Guardian: “Smiles might be helpful in closing deals on the high street, while if a waiter seems genuinely happy to serve, you might tip more for your meal and recommend the restaurant to your friends. This sort of thing could help boost the economy.”

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Michael Freeman

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