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What your old yearbook photos say about you

It turns out your old yearbook photos might say more about you than you think. A new study says those not eager to smile in front of the camera may not be as happy later in life. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Did you leave your lips closed to hide the old braces you hated? A new study says those not eager to smile in front of the camera may not be as happy later in life.

Matthew Hertenstein, an associate professor of psychology at DePauw University, and author of “The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths About Who We Are,” tells KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show that after studying thousands of photos, he and fellow researchers determined, those who smiled less in childhood photos were more likely to get divorced as adults.

“We, first of all, looked at college yearbook photos and looked at the degree to which people smiled in those photos. So you can look at the muscle that turns up your cheek and then you can look at that muscle that gives you the twinkle around your eye,” says Hertenstein.

“We painstakingly coded thousands of photos for that and we found that the people, the ones that smiled least, were five times more likely to divorce at some point in their life, compared to the ones that smiled the most.”

“We were actually pretty darn surprised,” says Hertenstein, “that a little, thin slice in time of our lives can actually predict something so many years down the road.”

Childhood photos can apparently predict more than marital success. Another study Hertenstein cited in his report for The Wall Street Journal said that women with big, bright yearbook photo smiles report less anxiety and sadness 30 years after graduating.

“It seems so surprising … yet the more I think about it … that makes some sense,” says KIRO Radio host Tom Tangney. “It feels like maybe it’s not that big a surprise. If you’re happy at 18 and 19, you’re probably going to be happy at 38 and 48, and 68, and 78, maybe.”

Hertenstein says those people who look at the glass half full probably attract others like them, which might explain some of the marital success of the smilers. But Hertenstein admits he was a tentative smiler and is still married. “Thankfully, I married a smiler,” he says.

“Always marry up,” says KIRO host John Curley.

Tom and Curley on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM

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