Say ‘e’


“[A series of experiments] show that positive emotion and cooler facial temperatures result when people saying the letter “e” or the sound “ah” over and over again, apparently because making these sounds requires a smile-like expression. These [experiments] also show that negative emotion (and hotter facial temperatures) result from repeating sounds like the letter O or the German vowel ü, apparently because making these sounds require a frown-like expression to pronounce. This effect was found to be equally strong in both German and American research subjects.

These researchers also found direct effects of temperature on emotion, demonstrating that people who have had cold air blown up their noses are happier than those who have had hot air blown up their noses. Hundreds of other studies show that hot temperatures are a powerful and reliable cause of foul moods and interpersonal conflict (especially aggression and violence).

So, if you want to be really weird, try increasing happiness (and thus creativity) by having your people say “ah, ah, ah,” “e, e ,e, e,” or perhaps saying “cheese” over and over again, blowing cold air up their noses, or just keeping the buildings cold where creative people work. Or as Jane Dutton at The University of Michigan told me after she heard Robert Zajonc talk about these ideas: “When I want to get in a good mood, I’ll just go home and stick my head in the refrigerator.”‘

Zajonc, R.B. “Emotion and Facial Efference: An Ignored Theory Reclaimed”, Science 228 (April 5, 1985): 15-21
Zajonc, R. B., S. T. Murphy, & M. Inglehart, “Feeling and Facial Efference: Implications of the Vascular Theory of Emotion” Psychological Review 96 (1989): 395-416.”