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.
The researchers watched members of those three groups, both with the groups knowing and without their knowledge, to determine whether smiling evolved as an expression of happiness, friendliness, or both.
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They noted that bowlers often smile when socially engaged, including looking at and talking to others, but not necessarily after scoring a spare or a strike.
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“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.”
The studies suggest an association of smiling with a social motivation, researchers found.
“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?”
Syndicated with permission from Real Clear Wire.
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