Nav: Home

Get your game face on: Study finds it may help

November 14, 2019

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Michael Phelps was caught on camera glaring as he prepared for the men's 200-meter butterfly final. The look, popularly known as Phelps face, became an example of a concept that has long been familiar in sports: the game face.

But could putting on a serious face in preparation for competition actually impact performance? According to a new study published in Stress and Health by experimental psychology researchers at UT, there may be substance to game face.

"Game face may not only improve performance in cognitive tasks, but it could also lead to better recovery from stress," said Matthew Richesin, master's student and lead author of the study, which was co-authored with Associate Professor of Psychology Debora Baldwin, Michael Oliver, a postdoctoral fellow in the UT Graduate School of Medicine, and fellow graduate student Lahai Wicks.

Richesin chose to study the phenomenon after seeing Tennessee Football shirts around UT's campus with the message "Get Your Game Face On." He reviewed psychology studies of the effect of facial manipulation on mood but found little research measuring its impact on performance.

"There's anecdotal evidence of game face having an impact based on its common use among athletes," Richesin said. "But we wanted to see if it would help on physical and mental challenges from a scientific perspective."

Researchers conducted two experiments, each with a distinct focus. For both, one group of participants was shown images of athletes and other public figures demonstrating a game face. They were then instructed to show "a look of intense determination" while performing separate physical and cognitive tasks.

In the first experiment, researchers asked 62 participants to complete a cold-pressor task where they submerged their dominant hands in a container filled with ice water (39-42 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to five minutes. Half of the participants were told to demonstrate a game face, while the participants in the control group were given no specific instruction.

While there was no impact on physical performance, researchers observed that participants who were not specifically told how to behave after inserting their hands also demonstrated similar facial expressions.

"Their reactions were spontaneous," Richesin said. "The facial expressions were the same as those commonly associated with effort, pain, and competition."

In the second experiment, participants were tasked with completing as much of a 100-piece black-and-white mandala puzzle as possible within five minutes. In this case, the game face group performed on average 20 percent better, while also demonstrating better stress recovery compared to the control group.

The researchers' findings support previous facial feedback research suggesting facial manipulations can positively impact mood.

Richesin hopes to conduct future research testing game face applications in other settings.

"If making a game face has the potential to improve performance, we may find this concept can have application outside of the traditional venue of sports," he said.
-end-
CONTACT:

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

Amanda Womac (865-974-2992, awomac1@utk.edu)

University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related Stress Articles:

Early life stress is associated with youth-onset depression for some types of stress but not others
Examining the association between eight different types of early life stress (ELS) and youth-onset depression, a study in JAACAP, published by Elsevier, reports that individuals exposed to ELS were more likely to develop a major depressive disorder (MDD) in childhood or adolescence than individuals who had not been exposed to ELS.
Red light for stress
Researchers from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have created a biphasic luminescent material that changes color when exposed to mechanical stress.
How do our cells respond to stress?
Molecular biologists reverse-engineer a complex cellular structure that is associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS
How stress remodels the brain
Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
How plants handle stress
Plants get stressed too. Drought or too much salt disrupt their physiology.
Stress in the powerhouse of the cell
University of Freiburg researchers discover a new principle -- how cells protect themselves from mitochondrial defects.
Measuring stress around cells
Tissues and organs in the human body are shaped through forces generated by cells, that push and pull, to ''sculpt'' biological structures.
Cellular stress at the movies
For the first time, biological imaging experts have used a custom fluorescence microscope and a novel antibody tagging tool to watch living cells undergoing stress.
Maternal stress at conception linked to children's stress response at age 11
A new study published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease finds that mothers' stress levels at the moment they conceive their children are linked to the way children respond to life challenges at age 11.
More Stress News and Stress 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: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.