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).
- Lay theories
- Social cognition
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science