Researchers of a new study find that the simple act of smiling can actually make a person happier. Evidently, nearly 50 years of data shows facial expressions can affect an individual’s emotions or feelings.
For over 100 years, psychologists have been debating whether facial expressions can affect emotions. The argument became even more pronounced in 2016 after 17 teams of scientists failed to replicate a popular experiment that would supposedly show that smiling can actually make people happier.
While there are some studies that do not show a relationship between facial expressions and emotional feelings, the researchers of the new study believe that they can’t focus on the data from just one. As such, they scoured data from 138 studies, which tested over 11,000 participants from all over the world.
“But we can’t focus on the results of any one study. Psychologists have been testing this idea since the early 1970s, so we wanted to look at all the evidence,” said lead researcher Nicholas Coles, PhD.
Facial Expressions Affect People's Emotions
Based on the team’s meta-analysis, facial expressions do, in fact, have a small impact on emotions. For instance, a person who smiles will feel happier, a person who scowls will feel angrier, and a person who frowns will feel sadder. While the effects aren’t very powerful or long-lasting, it is significant enough to show a correlation.
According to researchers, their findings bring us closer to understanding how human emotions work and how the mind and body work together to shape how we experience emotions. That said, they do note that they are not saying that people can just smile their way to happiness, especially when it comes to mental health conditions such as depression.
The study is published in Psychological Bulletin.