Smiling because you are happy or happy because you are smiling?- Can facial expressions cause emotions


Have you ever heard of the power of smiles? If this sounds ridiculous to you, think again because there is a chance that smiling may actually make you happy, and if that's not a super power then I don't know what is. More than smiling this post is about facial expressions and their effect on your emotional state and stress recovery rate.

An experimental study conducted by Kraft and Pressman from the University of Kansas, called Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response consisted on having 170 participants oblivious to the study's purpose complete two sets of stressful tasks while holding chopsticks in their mouths in such a way that they would be displaying a "duchenne" smile, a standard smile, or a neutral expression. Results showed that participants in the smiling groups had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral participants did. What the researchers concluded from the resulting data was that "there are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress". 

Although this is not conclusive evidence showing that there is a reverse causation situation between facial expressions and emotional states, the study does give us something to think about. If faking a smile can lower a natural stress response such as rapid heart rate, what else can we  achieve through this? Could this be the key to a happier life? What about facial expressions that display negative affect, do these make you sad? Perhaps if we could establish the reverse causation, we could have better control of our emotions and live a more fulfilling life. Meanwhile, at least we know that there is an effect on stress response, so next time you are stressed out just remember to smile. Even if it's a fake one held on by toothpicks you might end up feeling better a lot faster! 

all smiles.jpg


This occurrence is the facial feedback hypothesis of psychology. Two psychologists, James and Lange, hypothesized that the actions of a certain emotion should then produce that emotion. In 1983 Ekman, Levenson and Friesen went to test this. The participants were told that they were looking at the effects of motor activity on how people felt and told them certain expressions to make. In this experiment, the expressions correlated with the specific emotion they had been aiming for. To read more about this experiment, you can visit,

In high school I did a presentation on this certain hypothesis and it appears to be a very accurate hypothesis, with a plethora of experimentation to prove so. It is logical to think that if we smile enough, we are bound to end up feeling happy. Plus the people around you are more likely to be happy too, if you're clearly upset, people may not act the same around you.

Its really interesting to be reading that smiling on purpose can make one actually feel better inside. I saw a couple videos on youtube that mention of a laugh therapy type of thing that actually makes someone happier inside. I guess whenever anyone is down they should try this right here :

Its interesting how you go onto say that this could lead to a more peaceful and happier world. Maybe this is the key to true peace, to just smile and laugh everything off.

I heard that smiling actually can cause a chemical reaction in the brain of a surplus of endorphins somewhere, but was not sure if it was proven. This article from Psychology Today says it not only reduces stress levels, but boosts the immune system, and increases levels of endorphins and serotonin in the brain. Overall, this is a really interesting topic!


Very interesting blog post. I wish there was a better study on whether smiling does in fact cause one to be happy. I'm not sure how putting chopsticks in my mouth will ever warrant me to be in a good mood. In the study they said that the ones who were put in a smile position had a lower heart rate but does a lower heart rate necessarily mean that they are happy? It must be hard to test this type of thing in a lab because you can't simply tell someone to be happy or smile since they are going to know the reason and unconsciously be in a good or bad mood depending on their view of the experiment. Science is just so complex!

This is a really interesting post because it is crazy to think about how much control we have over our emotions. With this in mind, it makes we wonder how powerful the "duchenne" smile is, and how long will it make the happiness last. According to the article below, smiling directly effects brain activity that is linked to happiness, so why don't we just smile whenever were sad. Unfortunately, the happiness brought on by the duchenne smile is temporary as it points you in the direction of a positive feeling, but doesn't have the same effects as being genuinely happy.

Very interesting blog post. I've never thought about the control we have over our emotions. Honestly, when I think of emotions I think of how my emotions control me and how I am during the day. I didn't even know what the "duchenne" smile or how powerful it could be. But I do see how smiling can make you happy because seeing happiness is contagious! This website talks about why smiling makes you happy:

The first time I heard about this theory was on the show Rizzoli and Isles when Maura Isles tries to trick her mind into thinking that she is happy by stimulating her facial muscles. I knew if Dr. Isles was doing it, it must be true, so I looked into it.

Anyway here's a few more ways to 'hack' your brain that I found interesting:

I wonder why we smile? What was the origin of the smile? Is it just a social thing (could we have possibly, in an alternate reality twitched our legs to show happiness?) or is there a scientific reason behind it?

Also this article reminded me of our discussion on posing! How 2 minutes of aggressive posing can lead to an increase in testosterone and cortisol levels, I wonder if the mechanisms are similar?

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