Like yawning, many recent studies have proved that laughter is contagious. Does this necessarily imply that when you smile to a complete stranger, he will smile back to you? Or on the other hand, when you frown at a complete stranger, he will frown at you as well? To find out the answer, we designed an experiment to test will happy people make people happy.
Independent variables are the factors we manipulated. There are two independent variables in this test. The first one is our emotion conditions when having eye contact with the strangers, i.e. smile condition, frown condition and control condition. We define smile condition as smiling without teeth, frown condition as knitting our brows, and control condition as having a neutral facial expression. The second one is gender. To understand if gender matching matters, we will test the three conditions with strangers with the same gender and the opposite gender.
Dependent variables are the variables being tested in the experiment. In this test, the dependent variables are the responses from the participants. We will rate their responded expression in 5 categories: clear frown, small frown, neutral, small smile, and clear smile.
However, there are confounding factors that may affect the results of the experiment. Confounds are the extraneous variables in an experimental design that correlates with both the independent and dependent variables. Possible confound is the original facial expression of participants. Randomly choosing participants is a way to prevent confounds. To further eliminate confounds, we will choose complete strangers as participants and will not tell them about our test beforehand as they may confound the result by giving us what they believe we want to see. The last thing we do is to execute this test in a consistent way. We have strict control over our facial expression to make sure that our expressions will not defer a lot among participants.
This is not a simple test as what we originally consider. The first obstacle we encounter is not having enough confidence to frown at people. It is not difficult to smile at strangers, but frowning at strangers is somewhat weird that we hesitate for a long time before having confidence to complete the test. The second obstacle we encounter is there are possible biases in choosing participants. For example, we tend to choose participants with the same race or at similar ages with us. This may create possible confounding factors to the test. The last obstacle we encounter is finding suitable participants. Since we want to choose participants that are walking alone and not distracted by phones or music, surprisingly there are only a few can be found around campus. It takes us quite a lot of effort and time in finding suitable participants for the test.
Before conducting the test, we state our hypothesis as when we smile to people, people will smile back to us; whereas when we frown at people, people will frown at us as well. We come out with this hypothesis because we believe ones emotion can influence others, that is when there are optimistic and happy people in a group, other members in the group will become happy more easily; whereas when people in a group are generally in a pessimistic and unhappy mood, other members in the group will be influenced and become unhappy as well.