Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
How scientists elicit emotions—and how you can borrow a few of their methods.
Most of us know a thing or two about pushing buttons—intentionally making someone jealous, for example, or annoyed, or blisteringly furious. But if you're a researcher investigating anger, how do you get a roomful of eager volunteers suitably ticked off so you can stick their heads in a brain scanner? Or make them feel sheepish in order to analyze the facial expressions of embarrassment? Here are a few of the more, shall we say, creative techniques science uses for eliciting emotions:
What can you do?
This last technique could be useful if you happen to have a dinosaur handy. (Awe, it seems, influences people to act on behalf of the greater good.) Otherwise there are one or two lab tricks with great practical relevance in real life. Yawning, several studies show, instantly relaxes you and increases empathy—a perfect thing to do before a date or during a fight. And putting on a happy face really does lift your spirits, according to years of research by Paul Ekman, PhD, author of Emotions Revealed. (You can also make yourself somewhat angry or afraid just by making those expressions.) So the next time someone insults you, give yourself a moment, take a deep breath, and smile.
Next: What he's really thinking
From the August 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
We Hear You!