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Randomized Controlled Trial
. 2012;23(11):1372-8.
doi: 10.1177/0956797612445312. Epub 2012 Sep 24.

Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response

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Randomized Controlled Trial

Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response

Tara L Kraft et al. Psychol Sci. .

Abstract

In the study reported here, we investigated whether covertly manipulating positive facial expressions would influence cardiovascular and affective responses to stress. Participants (N = 170) naive to the purpose of the study completed two different stressful tasks while holding chopsticks in their mouths in a manner that produced a Duchenne smile, a standard smile, or a neutral expression. Awareness was manipulated by explicitly asking half of all participants in the smiling groups to smile (and giving the other half no instructions related to smiling). Findings revealed that all smiling participants, regardless of whether they were aware of smiling, had lower heart rates during stress recovery than the neutral group did, with a slight advantage for those with Duchenne smiles. Participants in the smiling groups who were not explicitly asked to smile reported less of a decrease in positive affect during a stressful task than did the neutral group. These findings show that there are both physiological and psychological benefits from maintaining positive facial expressions during stress.

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