Study: Smiling Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’re Happy

Smiling is more complicated than it might seem. A new study from the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) finds just because a person is smiling doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy. Researchers had 44 participants interact with a computer, alone in a room, while their faces were video recorded. After the activity, participants were asked to rate their subjective experience using a range of 12 emotions, including ‘bored’, ‘interested’, and ‘frustrated’. The subjects’ facial expressions were also analyzed by a computer frame by frame. Study leader Dr. Harry Witchel says, “Our study showed […] smiling is not driven by happiness; it is associated with subjective engagement, which acts like a social fuel for smiling, even when socializing with a computer on your own.” Statistically, the emotion participants most associated with smiling was ‘engagement’ rather than ‘happiness’ or ‘frustration’.