Forcing yourself to smile isn't enough to make you feel happy

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  • Participants held a pen in their mouth, forcing them to smile
  • They were then asked to complete a number of mundane tasks 
  • When they were shown funny cartoons there was no evidence to suggest inducing a smile led them to rate the cartoons differently  

While forcing a smile might make you look happy on the surface, new research suggests that it isn’t enough to cheer you up. 

The myth-busting study has found that grinning alone will not necessarily improve your mood, just as frowning may not make you feel down.

The finding contradicts previous studies that have been cited for the past 20 years. 

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While forcing a smile might make you look happy on the surface, new research suggests that it isn't enough to cheer you up (stock image)

While forcing a smile might make you look happy on the surface, new research suggests that it isn’t enough to cheer you up (stock image)

SPOTTING A FAKE SMILE 

Researchers in Germany and the UK have shown that picking out real smiles from fake ones develops early on in a child’s development. 

They showed that as they develop they become better at differentiating between types of smile and associating them with social skills.

Over a series of studies, groups of children aged two to five years old had to choose between images of genuine and fake smiles.

Eye tracking revealed that the ability may start to emerge at just two years of age.  

By age five, children were able to associate meaning to real smiles and pick out which person was more likely to be ‘nice’ and share with them. 

In 1998, a study tasked participants with either holding a pen between their teeth – causing them to grin, or between their lips, inducing a frown.

Those taking part were then shown cartoons and asked to rate how funny they were.

The paper, which found those grinning were more likely to giggle at the cartoons, has been cited frequently ever since.

But a new version of the experiment, published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, revealed this may not be the case.

In a rerun of the study, scientists from the University of Amsterdam tasked participants to hold the pens in their mouth just as in the original experiment.

But this time, they were asked to complete a number of tasks, including drawing lines under vowels and between various numbers.

They were then asked to rate the cartoons – this time displayed to them on a computer.

Participants either held a pen between their teeth - causing them to grin, or between their lips, inducing a frown. They were then shown cartoons and asked to rate how funny they were (stock image) 

Participants either held a pen between their teeth – causing them to grin, or between their lips, inducing a frown. They were then shown cartoons and asked to rate how funny they were (stock image)

The results, which came from almost 1,900 participants, were not consistent with the original study.

There was no evidence to suggest inducing particular facial expressions led participants to rate the cartoons differently.

Professor Eric-Jan Wagenmakers, who led the study, said: ‘This RRR (Registered Replication Report) did not replicate the results [of the original authors] and failed to do so in a statistically compelling fashion.

‘Nevertheless, it should be stressed that the RRR results do not invalidate the more general facial feedback hypothesis.’

THE PEN EXPERIMENT 

In 1998, a study tasked participants with either holding a pen between their teeth – causing them to grin, or between their lips, inducing a frown.

They were then shown cartoons and asked to rate how funny they were.

Their results showed that those grinning were more likely to giggle at the cartoons.

The new version tasked participants to hold the pens in their mouth just as in the original experiment.

But this time, they were asked to complete a number of tasks, including drawing lines under vowels and between various numbers.

They were then asked to rate the cartoons – this time displayed to them on a computer.

The results showed there was no evidence to suggest inducing particular facial expressions led participants to rate the cartoons differently.

 

Health | Mail Online


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