People don't tend to look up. It's a surprising behavior with which game designers have to grapple. How do you add verticality to your game and have people see it? Game designers have to get clever about signaling to lead the player's vision using lighting, geometry, and moving objects.
I heard about this a few years ago and the phenomenon intrigued me. I realized that I was looking down for most of my walk to class, so I decided to conduct an experiment. When I caught myself looking down, I would shift my gaze upwards to just above eye level. After a while I noticed a few interesting things:
- Luckily, I didn't trip on things as often as I thought I would.
- Instead of seeing people's legs I would see faces. Being at an international university, I got to see faces from dozens of nationalities every day. I did add a culturally-sensitive quick smile so people wouldn't think I was just staring at them.
- I was shocked to learn that there are birds, flowers, and beautiful trees up there. During clear sunny days, the foliage around campus would light up with such vivid colors you'd think somebody cranked up the saturation.
- Over time I started to feel better. I had more energy during and after my walks, I would get places earlier because I was unintentionally walking faster, and I was in an overall better mood.
I'd known about the research that linked so-called power-poses with improved energy and self-esteem. You can find a TED talk by social psychologist Amy Cuddy on the topic below. While researching this article however, I found a few other interesting studies that take this idea further.
One study from researchers at SF State University and Kaohsiung Medical University, shows an apparent link between posture while moving and energy level. In general, a slouched and hunched posture appeared to result in decreased levels of energy. In contrast, when the subjects did a "cross crawl skip"-or as I like to call it, jumping around like a happy idiot-they reported significantly higher levels of energy.
The study also shows that students with stronger self-reported depression are apparently more susceptible to the negative effects of slouching. In comparison, those with the lowest levels of depression were not susceptible to those negative effects. Regardless, both groups exhibited significant increases in energy level after jumping around like happy idiots.
Another interesting study shows an apparent link between our ability to recall positive memories and posture. Simply put, the results suggest that standing upright and looking up makes it easier to recollect positive memories.
My habit of smiling at people might have acted as a mood booster for people around me. I found a few studies, one that discusses how seeing different facial expressions appears to activate different parts of the brain. The second paper suggests that the areas of the brain that allow us to recognize when feelings in other's facial expressions are also involved in our own experience of that same feeling. Finally, another study appears to support the so-called facial-feedback hypothesis which suggests that smiling can enhance how we experience positive events. You're welcome students of Royal Holloway university from 2008-2010.
It's clear that how we feel affects how we carry ourselves, but there seems to be significant evidence to suggest that how we carry ourselves affects how we feel. So next time you're walking down the street do yourselves and others a favor: Look up and smile1.
Until next Time. Have a great one.
-- Jay Blanco
Editorial note: My background is in particle physics research not experimental psychology, so I don't have the expertise to assess the quality of the results detailed in the papers. They are interesting papers that have been cited in other works so if you get a chance, read them yourself and make up your own mind.