Research, Technology

Is it possible to become happier by putting on a fake smile

Modern man, especially in autumn and winter,it can be difficult to keep a good mood. If you search for instructions on how to quickly improve your mood, Google and other search engines recommend walking in the fresh air, watching a positive movie, and other banal tips. And if you read books about happiness, the authors now and then offer to start your day with a smile - according to them, even a strained emotion will do. In fact, this recommendation was not taken from scratch, because as early as 1872, the famous naturalist Charles Darwin said that "even the simulation of emotion tends to awaken it in our minds." This is a pretty bold statement, so for many decades scientists have been trying to verify its validity in experiments. Recently, they conducted another study on this topic - did they finally manage to prove or disprove Darwin's words?

Should you smile even if you don't feel like it?


  • 1 Studying the effect of smiling on mood
  • 2 A new experiment with smiling people
  • 3 Reasons to smile more often
  • 4 Harm of a forced smile

Studying the effect of smiling on mood

One of the most famous experiments on the topicof whether a fake smile can improve a person's mood was conducted in 1988. In its framework, men and women were divided into two random groups and asked to hold a pencil in their mouths. One half of the volunteers held it with their teeth and imitated a smile, while the other half held it with their lips, showing a neutral expression.

At the same time, men and women were showncartoon. After watching, each of them rated how funny it was. It turned out that people with a forced smile got more pleasure from watching than the rest. That is, the fake joy on a person’s face at least helps to look at things more positively than usual.

Holding a pencil in your teeth can mimic a smile

Much time has passed since then, and scientistsThe experiment was repeated several times in order to better study this phenomenon. In 2016, one group of researchers collected the results of 17 old scientific papers and concluded that experiments with a pencil in the mouth cannot give accurate results.

Come to think of it, they were absolutely right, becausethat if volunteers know in advance that scientists are studying the effect of smiling on mood, a placebo effect may work. Therefore, researchers recently decided to conduct an experiment whose participants are unaware of its true purpose.

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A new experiment with smiling people

In a study whose results werepublished in the scientific journal Nature Human Behavior, 3800 people from nineteen different countries took part. The authors told them they were studying the effects of small movements and distractions on a person's ability to solve math problems. One of the distractions was holding a pencil in one's teeth, another was an image of a smiling actor, a third was keeping a straight face, and so on—the factors were different so that the volunteers did not suspect anything.

During the new experiment, the participants tried to confuse as much as possible

After the actions, they were asked to solve a mathematicaltask and complete a questionnaire about the level of perceived joy, anger, fatigue, confusion and other feelings. As it turned out, a fake smile actually increased the feeling of joy, and the image of a smiling actor worked more effectively than holding a pen in his mouth. Based on this, we can conclude that a forced smile can really make the day at least a little better.

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Why You Should Smile More Often

But how does smiling improve mood?The authors of a new study write that a fake smile can affect mood because smiling automatically activates the biological processes associated with emotions. We've already talked about one such experiment earlier, and its author, Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, gave a more detailed explanation. According to him, the muscles of the face that act during a smile stimulate the amygdala of the brain. And this area is just responsible for human emotions.

The amygdala in the human brain

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The harm of a forced smile

So, smiling can improve your mood.But it’s better not to abuse it - in 2021, scientists came to the conclusion that a fake smile leads to emotional burnout. Flight attendants, sales assistants, waiters and other professions who are required to make a good impression on customers suffer the most from this. We wrote more about the dangers of a fake smile in this material - we strongly recommend that you read it.