Pop culture and media try to convince us that smiling people are happier…and you would be too, if you smiled more. But can the act of smiling actually influence the way you feel?
The psychological hypothesis of facial feedback proposes that facial movements do in fact influence one’s emotional state. Yet since this theory was proposed in the early 1970s it has been controversial at best, with research confirming both a supportive and contradictory perspective. Instead of attempting to replicate yet another experimental study, researchers with Texas A&M and University of Tennessee decided to take a new approach.
In order to make sense of the 50+ years of research on the topic, the scientists conducted a meta-analysis including more than 11,000 participants across 138 research studies. The study published by the American Psychological Association’s Psychological Bulletin included a complex mathematical process to seek statistical significance for the connection between facial movement and resulting emotion.
The results were pleasantly surprising: the facial feedback hypothesis was supported by a small but significant overall effect! What’s the takeaway for you and me?
While smiling more might not change your life overnight, it certainly can help you feel happier and more grateful. And can’t we all use a little more happy gratitude?
Terissa Michele Miller, MS Psy
Check out the original research: