If you smile you will feel happier.

If you smile you will feel happier.

If you smile you will feel happier.

We think of our facial expressions and body language as being caused by our feelings and attitudes. However, it goes the other way too. If you smile, that tells your brain that you must be happy.

Fritz Strack asked his participants to either hold a pen horizontally between their teeth (creating a sort of smile – or a grimace at least!) or pointing out from their pursed lips (creating a sort of frown). Those who held the pen between their teeth reported feeling happier than the others.

The same effect works with other body language too. If you nod your head, that tells your brain that you agree with whatever you are listening to. And if your brain thinks you are agreeing, it will alter your beliefs or attitudes accordingly.

Wells and Petty asked some participants to nod whilst they listened to a message on some headphones. Others were asked to shake their heads.

Those who had been nodding ended up agreeing with the message they were listening to than those who had been asked to shake their heads.

If the message was something that the participants already had an opinion about, there was another interesting effect. If they disagreed with the message they found it harder to nod their heads. And, naturally, if they agreed with the message people found it harder to shake their heads.

Find out more about how the mind plays tricks on you and how your memory works by reading my books, Bias Beware and Memory Matters.

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