The Secrets of a Happy Marriage

3 05 2009

So apparently childhood and high school photos are indicators of whether or not a married couple will stay happily married or get divorced.  According to a study done at DePauw University’s psychology department, you can look through someone’s photo albums and assess his/her “smile intensity score” to determine whether or not s/he will stay married or get divorced.

The CNN article says:

The less intensely the subjects smiled, the more likely they would be divorced later in life, while the biggest smilers had lower divorce rates, according to a study published online this month by the journal Motivation and Emotion.

Scientists don’t know what accounts for the link, but say a smile may indicate higher levels of positive emotions and signal other traits, said co-author Matt Hertenstein, associate professor of psychology at DePauw University and head of the school’s Touch and Emotion Lab.

“People who smile a lot may attract happier people and maybe happier marriage partners,” Hertenstein said. “It may be that people who smile in response to a photographer are more obedient people and obedience may help in a marriage. I really don’t know the explanation.”

Oh, please!  Who honestly believes that you can predict success at matrimony based on your childhood pictures or your high school yearbook photos?  I know that as a child, I hated being photographed and rarely ever smiled in pictures.  And in my high school photos I just looked awkward.  I suppose this means that I’m destined to be divorced later on in life.  Darn, I should’ve smiled in those photos then!

And “a smile may indicate higher levels of positive emotions and signal other traits”?  That’s not really rocket science, to conclude that someone is happy or experiencing positive emotions because s/he smiled.  It’s also inaccurate to declare that there’s a link between being super smiley when you’re younger and staying happily married later on in life.  There may be a correlation but not necessarily causation – smiling in photos from your childhood or teenage years does not mean that you will remain in a happy marriage when you’re older.

Hertenstein’s claim,”It may be that people who smile in response to a photographer are more obedient people and obedience may help in a marriage”, is also problematic.  While he isn’t making this comment gender specific, I read: the marriage has a better chance if the wife is obedient.  Obedience is an archetypically feminine characteristic.  How often do people tell boys or men to be obedient?  It’s definitely something said to girls and women more because women are supposed to be subservient and obedient.

Finally, this smiling study essentially does not show us anything.  In order for a scientific study to be valid it needs to be able to be easily replicated and the findings have to be reproduced.  Most people with enough sense in their heads will look at this study and be skeptical, because it even just sounds ridiculous!


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