Most people believe that mood determines behavior. If you’re in a good mood, you smile and laugh; if you’re in a bad mood, nothing will make you grin. While there is certainly truth to this notion, researchers Chris Kleinke, Thomas Peterson, and Thomas Rutledge found the opposite can also be true.
Putting a smile on your face, even if you’re not in a good mood, can lead to a more positive disposition.
The researchers asked participants in their study to fill out questionnaires that identified their pre-experiment moods. They were then randomly assigned to one of three groups. In the first group, participants were asked to mimic pictures of people with positive facial expressions. The second group mimicked pictures of people with negative facial expressions; the third group maintained neutral facial expressions while looking at the pictures. At the end of the experiment, the participants were asked to fill out the mood-assessing questionnaire once again.
As predicted, participants who mimicked pictures of smiling people reported more positive moods after engaging in the experiment. Those who mimicked scowls developed more negative moods; those who held neutral facial expressions had little or no change in disposition.
This study offers a measure of support for the concept of a self-imposed, self-fulfilling prophecy. Acting happy, even if you’re not feeling happy, might help you become happy—because behavior can sometimes determine mood.