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  • Writer's pictureDr. Maryam Motlagh, D.M.D

Smiling: Does It Really Affect Your Mood?

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Charles Darwin and The Facial Feedback Hypothesis

When you're feeling down, there is always that one person who asks you to smile or tries to get you to laugh. As annoying as it may be, the idea is actually a scientific phenomenon dating back to the 1800's when Charles Darwin took the stance that physical movement directly impacts your psychological state.

Essentially, Charles Darwin was suggesting that smiling will make you happier.

Hundreds of years later, scientists are still studying Darwin's case which eventually evolved into the "Facial Feedback Hypothesis" which states that facial gestures will in fact influence emotional experiences in social settings. People who smile will not immediately feel happier, rather people who smile will most likely have a happier experience than those who frown.

"Say AHHH!"- A Funny Experiment

In 1988, three scientists by the names of Fritz Strack, Leonard Martin, and Sabine Stepper conducted an experiment to further confirm the ideas behind the Facial Feedback Hypothesis. They asked a group of participants to perform tasks that would allow them to study the capabilities of people who can't use their hands. Obviously, this was just a cover story to deter the participants from knowing the true objective of the tests.

First the participants were split into groups:

Group A would hold a pen in their mouth with their teeth (which would force a smile).

Group B would hold a pen in their mouth with their lips (which would force a frown).

While holding the pens in their designated positions, both groups would watch a funny cartoon. Ultimately, Group A reported back with more amusement ratings than those in Group B, further confirming the concept of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis.

The Botox Experiment: Depression and Frowns

In the early 2000s, a team of researchers lead by Axel Wollmera and Tillmann Krugerb, based at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Basel, Switzerland and the Department of Psychiatry, Medical School Hannover, Germany, expanded on concepts of the Facial Feedback Hypothesis.

They believed that by injecting Botox into the muscles most linked with frowning and low mood would relax those muscles, almost prohibiting people from performing these actions associated with low mood. As a result, the team did discover that Botox does have a major effect on depression, ultimately blocking the muscles from being exercised.

Why This Matters in Dentistry.

Cosmetic dentistry is heavily intended to provide patients with a way to enhance their physical appearance. Whether we recognize it or not, on of the first things we see when we meet someone new is their smile. If you are self-conscious about how your teeth look, you may be less apt to smile; which as the Facial Feedback Hypothesis proves, can negatively influence your overall mood.

Dr. Maryam Motlagh runs her private practice located in Portland, OR and specializes in Smile Makeovers intended to help her patients not only look better but ultimately feel better. If you live in the Portland area, give Aesthetic Smiles a call to schedule your next appointment!

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