What does it mean to be cool? For generations, we’ve been shown cool icons who have distant, impassive expressions. We’re told that cool people are aloof, that their very coolness keeps them from smiling. Some celebrities–like Kanye and Kim Kardashian West–even take in this ideal as the truth. They avoid smiling because they believe it will make them look cooler.
But it turns out that the joke is on us all. In fact, the expression that makes you more likely to look cool is a beautiful smile. That’s according to new international research, which found that, whether you’re a celebrity or not, you look cooler if you smile.
Trying to Find the Essence of Cool
What do we mean when we say something is “cool”? It’s kind of vague, but its very vagueness is part of its value. The word is inexpressible in other ways, except to say that what’s cool is what we want. And that makes the concept of coolness a vital one for marketers to tap into. The more they can associate their product with coolness, the better their sales.
That’s why marketing professors at the University of Arizona, the University of Chile, and Texas A & M University worked together to try to discern the essence of cool.
To do this, they had subjects look at advertising pictures and rate the person in the picture on a seven-point coolness scale. The pictures included both famous actors and relatively unknown models. It included both familiar brands and unfamiliar brands. And, of course, it included both models that were smiling and some that were inexpressive.
Subjects consistently rated the smiling pictures as cooler than the unsmiling pictures. This was especially surprising for a Hollywood icon like James Dean, whose most famous images show him unsmiling. Still, subjects selected the smiling image of Dean as cooler than the unsmiling one.
And, just as advertisers assume, the effect transferred over to the brand advertised. People rated brands as less cool when the model in the advertisement wasn’t smiling.
Sometimes Context Matters
The effect was mostly true, but there was one exception they found. When mixed martial arts fighters were facing one another at a press conference, the one who was smiling was seen as less cool than the one who wasn’t smiling. But when the fighters were meeting with fans, smiling fighters were cooler again.
This shows that sometimes the context matters for coolness.
Is a Lack of Confidence Keeping You from Being Cool?
Researchers note that the mistaken perception of coolness has had very serious impact on people’s lives. When people are trying to be inexpressive and cool, it can damage relationships, because people trying to achieve a false social ideal can give a mistaken impression that they don’t care about their partners. It also makes it hard to understand each other–a smile is a vital tool for communication.
Sometimes, though, we know that people just don’t smile because they are unhappy with the appearance of their smile. They don’t want to show a smile that will make them self-conscious. The result is that people can’t communicate properly with those around them. And, to top it off, they look uncool to boot.
If this is what’s keeping you from smiling, we can help. Cosmetic dentistry can give you a beautiful smile that you will be happy to share. If you want to learn more about cosmetic dentistry in Rochester, MI, please call (248) 656-2020 today for an appointment with a cosmetic dentist at Doolin Haddad Advanced Dentistry.