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June 4, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Mad Science – Are You Feeling This?

This week, Mad Science is looking at the topic of pesky emotions and what light science has shed on them.

So maybe you’ve suffered the injustice of getting an A when you deserved an A+, or you’ve had the epiphany that Big
Macs really have gotten smaller since childhood. Your fists are clenched, your blood is boiling. Decades of research has shown that venting, far from releasing anger, actually makes it worse.

Bushman found in 2002 that doing nothing at all for two minutes was actually effective in reducing anger, while in contrast punching a sandbag while thinking of an offending person increased anger towards that person. A recent study by Martin et al found online ranting seems to increase anger, and that reading another person’s rants online for five minutes had a negative effect on mood. So contrary to popular opinion, these studies show that venting is a terrible anger-management strategy.

For some, apologising comes easier than breathing, while for others, they would rather climb Mt Everest in light cotton while listening to the chipmunk versions of Bindi Irwin songs. In a recent paper, Okimoto et al discovered that refusals to apologise, in some cases, make people feel better than an apology would have. They found that refusing to apologise can make you feel more empowered, translating into greater feelings of self-worth, and can result in boosted feelings of integrity. Who knew there was such an easy path to self-esteem?

Charles Darwin once wrote “the free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it”. Studies have shown that the facial expressions you make or fail to make can influence mood. University of Cardiff psychologists found that people whose ability to frown is compromised by botox injections are happier, on average, than people who still have the ability to frown. Furthermore, a study in The Journal of Pain (the most badass of all scientific journals), found that those who frowned during unpleasant medical procedures reported feeling more pain than those who do not. Research by Dr Zajonc found that smiling leads to less blood volume being supplied to the brain, which in turn decreases the brain’s temperature, triggering a happy feeling.

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