Not always the best medicine: Why frequent smiling can reduce wellbeing

Aparna A. Labroo*, Anirban Mukhopadhyay, Ping Dong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Conventional wisdom (and existing research) suggests that the more people smile, the more positive they feel, and positive feelings are known to enhance wellbeing. Across three studies, instead, we show more frequent smiling does not always increase happiness, and as a consequence, wellbeing. Frequent smiling results in more wellbeing than infrequent smiling only among people who interpret smiling as reactive or reflecting happiness. Among people who interpret smiling as proactive and causing happiness, frequent smiling results in less wellbeing than infrequent smiling. Here, frequent smiling backfires, evoking less happiness than infrequent smiling, which in turn reduces wellbeing. Thus, smiling by itself does not increase happiness, or wellbeing. Instead, the belief that one must already be happy when one smiles is what increases happiness, and as a result, wellbeing. (128 words).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-162
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Embodiment
  • Happiness
  • Lay theories
  • Social cognition
  • Wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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