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Students, Faculty Contribute to Facial Expression Research

An article in Perspectives on Psychological Science, reporting the results of a multi-lab effort to replicate a classic finding in psychology, includes research conducted by two Colorado College faculty members, a recent alumna, and two Colorado College students.
Kevin Holmes, assistant professor of psychology, and Tomi-Ann Roberts, professor of psychology, led one of 17 labs from around the world that contributed to a "Registered Replication Report" attempting to replicate a seminal study of the facial feedback hypothesis. Julia Liao '15, Jacob Jones '17, and Beck Shea '17 helped conduct the research and are listed as co-authors on the paper, and more than 180 CC students participated in the study.
According to the facial feedback hypothesis, people's affective responses can be influenced by their own facial expressions, such as smiling or pouting, even when their expressions do not result from their emotional experiences. In the 1988 study, Fritz Strack, Leonard Martin, and Sabine Stepper instructed participants to rate the funniness of cartoons using pens held in their mouths. In line with the facial feedback hypothesis, when participants held the pen with their teeth (inducing a "smile"), they rated the cartoons as funnier than when they held the pen with their lips (inducing a "pout").
Essentially, the hypothesis, originally proposed by both Charles Darwin and William James, states that movements of the face can lead to changes in how we feel, and the concept has been a standard in self-help for many years: Act the way you want to feel, and the rest will fall into place, as in "fake it till you make it" or "sulk until you hulk."
However, an analysis of data from the 17 labs that participated in the project found that the original finding did not hold up; there was no reliable evidence that funniness ratings differed between the smile and pout conditions. An in-depth article in Slate discusses the project and what the non-replication means.

Report an issue - Last updated: 12/16/2020