You may have heard and/or read about research in which the act of smiling (e.g. scienceblogs , smithsonianmag, psychologytoday) can induce a happier mood- part of the so called 'Facial Feedback hypothesis'.

Extending from the 'James-Lange theory' in which physiological arousal triggers the experience of a specific emotion, the 'Facial Feedback hypothesis' claims that facial expressions can influence emotional experience.

In other words, "Fake it till you make it."

Building on this concept, Shigeo Yoshida and colleagues at the University of Tokyo, Japan, have developed and tested a virtual mirror system, the 'Emotion Evoking System', designed to exploit this phenomenon by altering the image of the user.


Essentially, the facial image of the user would be captured by webcam, analysed, modified, and presented to the user in real-time on a display designed to look like a mirror.


Facial modifications would involve turning the mouth corners up/down and the changing the appearance of the area around the eyes- the prototypical albeit basic :) and :(.


Recruiting 21 volunteers who were unaware of the study aims, Yoshida and team found that generally, when participants were presented with a 'happy' face, they in turn reported feeling happier, and vice versa.

The second part of their study however enters a slightly creepier territory of potential commercial exploitation- attempting to influence the preference of the participant when wearing an item of clothing. Now, participants were provided a random scarf to wear and again used the system. When an altered smiling image was displayed, participants were more likely to report that they liked the scarf, and vice versa. The team suggests that the system may be used to manipulate consumers' impressions/preference of products.

[shigeodayo, and via cnet via newscientist]