Mood migration: How enfacing a smile makes you happier

Cognition. 2016 Jun:151:52-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.02.018. Epub 2016 Mar 10.


People tend to perceive the face of another person more as their own if own and other face are stroked in synchrony-the enfacement illusion. We conceptually replicated the enfacement illusion in a virtual reality environment, in which participants could control the movements of a virtual face by moving and touching their own face. We then used this virtual enfacement illusion to study whether enfacing a virtual face would also involve adopting the emotion that this face is expressing. As predicted, participants adopted the expressed emotion, as indicated by higher valence scores and better performance in a mood-sensitive divergent-thinking task when facing a happy virtual face, if the virtual face moved in synchrony with their own head movements. This suggests that impact on or control over another person's facial movements invite "mood migration" from the person one identifies with to oneself.

Keywords: Body representation; Facial expression; Illusory perception; Mood; Multisensory integration; Self face recognition; Self representation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect* / physiology
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Smiling / physiology
  • Smiling / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult