Wearing sunglasses makes people less likely to express anger on a sunny day, a recent psychology study finds.
The findings are based on the idea of embodied cognition: that our facial expressions and bodily actions, whatever their cause, feed back into how we feel.
The slightly bizarre study, published in the journal Cognition & Emotion, had researchers walking up and down a beach on a sunny day (Marzoli et al., 2013).
People were randomly approached who were either wearing sunglasses or not, and who were either walking into the sun or away from it.
They were then asked to complete a test in which they could express both anger and bitterness.
The results showed that people walking into the sun without sunglasses were more likely to express anger than people who had the sun behind them, or who were wearing sunglasses and walking into the sun.
There was no difference, though, on a measure of bitterness, suggesting that people walking into the sun weren’t just in a generalised bad mood.
And it didn’t matter how long they had been walking into the sun, so wearing sunglasses, or not, likely has a very quick effect.
This was despite the fact that most people reported the sun wasn’t bothering them.
The reason that this works is that when people are walking into the sun without sunglasses, they usually frown to shield their eyes.
It just so happens, though, that frowning uses some of the same facial muscles as expressing anger.
And frowning, even when there’s nothing to be angry about, makes anger more likely to come to the fore.
It’s the same effect that means that if you force yourself to smile, even when you’re in a bad mood, it can make you feel a little better.
Psychologists call it embodied cognition.
It’s not just our mind that causes our facial expressions: our facial expressions (and posture) also feed back directly to the mind.
Botox for depression
The same effect has been observed in people who have botox injections between their eyebrows to stop them frowning.
One study has shown that people suffering from moderate or severe depression experienced a 50% reduction in symptoms, on average, from botox injections (Finzi & Rosenthal, 2014).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Daniela Vladimirova