“A smile is a curve that sets everything straight” Phyllis Diller
In May 1988, Fritz Strack, Leonard L. Martin, and Sabine Stepper put the saying “fake it until you make it” to the test. We’ve all heard you can lift up your mood by faking a smile and these researches may have found evidence to prove this to be true. In this experiment, subjects were told to hold a pen in their mouth in a fashion that utilized the muscles typically associated with smiling, but not to hold a smiling pose. They conducted the same test twice to make sure the results are accurate.
The results were satisfying. Subjects with a pen in their mouth had more intense humour reactions when cartoons were presented. They found that the cognitive component of the humour response was not triggered, but the affective component (the attitude towards an object or scenario) was. Recently the same test was conducted by putting chopsticks in the subjects’ mouth and the same result was noted.
One of the modern studies experimented with real smiles, fake smiles, chopsticks in the mouth, and a neutral face. All those subjects were put under stressful situations, either mentally or physically. The people with a smile, no matter fake, real, or forced, had a better grasp with each situation. This shows smiling may have a positive affect other than cheering you up.
As is turns out, faking a smile could possibly alter our physiological and psychological state. Not only may it increase your sense of humour, but smiling while doing stressful tasks could lower your heart rate and allow your body to recover from stress faster. Due to this, it has been suggested that a smile may help reduce anxiety and promote serenity. Researchers in Boston College have also discovered that smiling may aide you when in trouble, as punishers tend to be more lenient if the transgressors smiles.
Vanessa Reda, a marriage therapist uses what she refers to as “Smile Therapy” wherein she has her patients smile for a minute and a half before reflecting upon their troubles. “People overwhelmingly report a more positive mood through the experience,” Reda says. “There’s a tremendous body/mind connection, making smiling an excellent coping and self-soothing technique.”
Although these researchers were successful in their experiments, no information was given about how large the group tested was. No background information was released to the media about age, ethnicity, diagnosed mental illnesses, and their day prior to the studies was not put into perspective. Most likely these findings were not coincidences, however the researchers may have been biased in selecting their subjects.
Something that has not been studied is if a genuine smile works better than a forced smile. Does a smile cause us to feel happy, or does the thought of being happy make us smile? Seeing how many times this topic is researched over again, I wonder what specific correlation researchers are trying to find. It seems that funding is being used to research the same things over and over again.
Have you ever smiled to calm yourself down? If smiling can be used as a stress reliever, why isn’t is instinctual for humans to smile under stress? Have you ever been under so much stress, you couldn’t help but laugh?