Normally we smile as a consequence of being happy, but psychologists have, over the years investigated the idea that smiling itself can cause happiness.

So, we have the concept of a physical act triggering an emotion in the reverse (or inverse) of what we would expect: the emotion triggering a physical behavior.

What is the psychological term for using a smile to trigger happiness?


1 Answer 1


The specific example is called the facial feedback hypothesis:

... the conjectures ... that one's facial expression directly affects their emotional experience. ... While James included the influence of all bodily changes on the creation of an emotion ... modern research mainly focuses on the effects of facial muscular activity.

This is a component of the James–Lange theory of emotion:

Instead of feeling an emotion and subsequent physiological (bodily) response, the theory proposes that the physiological change is primary, and emotion is then experienced when the brain reacts to the information received via the body's nervous system.

And also self-perception theory:

... asserts that people develop their attitudes ... by observing their own behavior and concluding what attitudes must have caused it. The theory is counterintuitive in nature, as the conventional wisdom is that attitudes determine behaviors.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.