In case you need a little something to tip your mood scale towards the side of happiness today, read on! The Facial Feedback Hypothesis suggests that you may have the ability to give yourself a little boost in mood–and it would only take a moment out of your busy day. Robert Zajonc, Ph.D., former professor, Director of the Institute for Social Research, and Director for the Research Center of Group Dynamics at University of Michigan and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University, believed that people could manipulate mood through a change in facial expression. Simply put: when we smile we become happier and when we frown we become sadder.
Dr. Zajonc explained that smiling causes facial muscles to stretch and tighten leading to a decrease in blood flow to the internal carotid artery, which is the route taken by much of the blood traveling to the brain. The idea is that as blood flow decreases, so does brain temperature, which is believed to bring about more positive mood. In contrast, as the muscles involved in frowning are tightened, the blood flow to the brain increases, increasing the temperature and, therefore, spurring a more negative mood.
Zajonc, R. B., Murphy, S. T. & Inglehart, M. (1989). Feeling and facial efference: Implications for the vascular theory of emotion Psychological Review, 96(3), 395-416.
Cassandra A. Sturycz, B.A.
Psychology Practicum Student