ewscientist.com/article/mg15020279.300-act-now-think-later--fear-not-politicians-that-elusive-feelgood-factor-can-be-created-in-an-instant-just-appeal-to-our-primal-instincts-advises-david-concar.html Act now, think later - Fear not, politicians. That elusive feel-good factor can be created in an instant. Just appeal to our primal instincts, advises David Concar
27 April 1996
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Department stores opt for nice smells and muzak; impresarios use warm-up acts. But psychologist Sheila Murphy has an infinitely more devious way of getting people in the right frame of mind. First she sits them in front of a screen in her lab at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Then she flashes up images of smiling faces.
Nothing obviously devious about that: smiles make people cheerful. The rub is that Murphy's smiles last for just a few thousandths of a second. That's way too fast for the human brain to know what it's looking at. And yet, according to in-depth studies carried out over many years by Murphy, veteran emotions researcher Robert Zajonc and their colleagues, these split-second flashes of teeth and warmly wrinkled eyes induce a measurably more positive frame of mind.
It sounds crazy. How can people respond to facial expressions too short-lived to permeate...?