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1980 Study Found That Social Interactions Are A Major Cause Of Smiling And Cost Taxpayers $250,000

By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolicy

In 1980, the National Institute for Mental Health spent $75,000 on a study—about $250,000 in 2021 dollars—to look at why bowlers, hockey fans, and pedestrians smile.

They found “strong evidence that social involvement rather than emotional state was the major cause of smiling.”

For this study, Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave the National Institute for Mental Health a Golden Fleece award for wasteful and nonsensical spending.

“In my opinion, the American taxpayers will say, with a puckish grin, that they are not bowled over by this pedestrian study,” Proxmire said then.

Researchers observed the three groups of people, with and without their knowledge. They wanted to know if smiling is an expression of joy, friendship, or both.

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It was noted by the researchers that bowlers are more likely to smile while socially engaging, which includes looking at, talking to, and talking about others. This is, however, not after hitting a spare or striking.

“At a hockey game, fans smiled both when they were socially involved and after events favorable to their team,” the study found. “Pedestrians were much more likely to smile when talking but only slightly more likely to smile in response to nice weather than to unpleasant weather.”

Researchers found that smiling is associated with social motivation.

“While I have no objections to a study of smiling as such, involved here is a question of priorities,” Proxmire said. “In this period of double-digit, galloping inflation, should the hard-pressed taxpayer be asked to pay for an academic version of bowling for dollars?”

Real Clear Wire permission granted permission for this syndicated article.

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