Nav: Home

Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier

April 11, 2019

Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new paper published in Psychological Bulletin.

Coauthored by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Texas A&M, the paper looked at nearly 50 years of data testing whether facial expressions can lead people to feel the emotions related to those expressions.

"Conventional wisdom tells us that we can feel a little happier if we simply smile. Or that we can get ourselves in a more serious mood if we scowl," said Nicholas Coles, UT PhD student in social psychology and lead researcher on the paper. "But psychologists have actually disagreed about this idea for over 100 years."

These disagreements became more pronounced in 2016, when 17 teams of researchers failed to replicate a well-known experiment demonstrating that the physical act of smiling can make people feel happier.

"Some studies have not found evidence that facial expressions can influence emotional feelings," Coles said. "But we can't focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence."

Using a statistical technique called meta-analysis, Coles and his team combined data from 138 studies testing more than 11,000 participants from all around the world. According to the results of the meta-analysis, facial expressions have a small impact on feelings. For example, smiling makes people feel happier, scowling makes them feel angrier, and frowning makes them feel sadder.

"We don't think that people can smile their way to happiness," Coles said. "But these findings are exciting because they provide a clue about how the mind and the body interact to shape our conscious experience of emotion. We still have a lot to learn about these facial feedback effects, but this meta-analysis put us a little closer to understanding how emotions work."
-end-
The study, "A Meta-Analysis of the Facial Feedback Literature: Effects of Facial Feedback on Emotional Experience Are Small and Variable," is co-authored by Jeff Larsen, professor of psychology at UT, and Heather Lench of Texas A&M University. The research is supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship awarded to Coles.

CONTACT:

Brian Canever (865-974-0937, bcanever@utk.edu)

Andrea Schneibel (865-974-3993, andrea.schneibel@utk.edu)

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related Smile Articles:

New bone-graft biomaterial gives patients a nicer smile and less pain
A new recipe for a bone-graft biomaterial that is supercooled before application should make it easier to meet dental patients' expectation of a good-looking smile while eliminating the pain associated with harvesting bone from elsewhere in their body.
Facial expressions don't tell the whole story of emotion
Facial expressions might not be reliable indicators of emotion, research indicates.
Youth with HIV less likely than adults to achieve viral suppression
Despite similar rates of enrollment into medical care, youth with HIV have much lower rates of viral suppression --reducing HIV to undetectable levels -- compared to adults, according to an analysis funded by the National Institutes of Health.
How can you reliably spot a fake smile? Ask a computer
Real and fake smiles can be tricky to tell apart, but researchers at the University of Bradford have now developed computer software that can spot false facial expressions.
Emotion-detection applications built on outdated science, report warns
Software that purportedly reads emotions in faces is being deployed or tested for a variety of purposes, including surveillance, hiring, clinical diagnosis, and market research.
Was Mona Lisa's smile a lie?
Using chimeric, or mirror, images researchers have determined that one half of Mona Lisa's smile displays happiness while the other half is neutral reflecting a non-genuine emotion.
The healing power of a smile: A link between oral care and substance abuse recovery
A new study links the benefits of comprehensive oral care to the physical and emotional recovery of patients seeking treatment for substance use disorder.
Pediatric endocrinologist gives iconic 'Mona Lisa' a second medical opinion
Michael Yafi, MD, refutes the most recent hypothesis that 'Lisa' had hypothyroidism and psychomotor retardation.
Psychologists find smiling really can make people happier
Smiling really can make people feel happier, according to a new paper published in Psychological Bulletin.
Forcing a smile for customers linked with more drinking after work
Employees who force themselves to smile and be happy in front of customers -- or who try to hide feelings of annoyance -- may be at risk for heavier drinking after work, according to researchers.
More Smile News and Smile Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.