Can a smiley face change your mood?  Positive psychology suggests it can. And so does Jesse Kramer, the designer of MotorMood, a new gadget that’s taking the science of Positive psychology on the road and putting its principles in the hands of ordinary people.

How does it work? 

MotorMood aims to improve the mood of drivers through a simple intervention—the sharing of positive feelings with other drivers. Drivers simply push a button on the MotorMood and a smiley face illuminates—sending positive vibes to the vehicle’s driver.   In an interview with Adele Peters at Co-Exist, Kramer, said his inspiration came from the “dehumanizing effects you can sometimes feel while driving. One day it occurred to me that if people were able communicate in even the smallest way, the situation would be greatly improved." (1) 

The designers hope that drivers will use it to thank other drivers, for example, for letting them merge.  They hope to create a domino effect, "We believe positive emotions are contagious. After seeing the face, a driver's thought process of 'Who is this jerk in front of me?' becomes 'That's so nice/amazing/hilarious/cute,' and, as result, they themselves become more forgiving and gracious." 

The designers cite three studies that  support the science behind MotorMood (2) 

A) Research at Australia's Flinders University showed that “the pattern of brain activity triggered by looking at an emoticon smiley face is now the same as when someone sees a real smiling human face." (3)

B) Churchesa, et. al (2014), found that the visual perception of faces activates “nonvisual somatosensory areas that contribute to emotion." (4)

C) A study at the University of Bristol demonstrated that aggression and anger are reduced in teens who are exposed to happy faces. (5)

If you're a commuter, or simply like to spread smiles, check out the MotorMood. It is being funding through Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/motormood/motormood-a-better-way-to...)on-the-road?ref=nav_search

In addition to Jesse Kramer, the team behind MotorMood includes, Alex Sewell, Kina DeSantis, and Arman Bastani.  

Sources

1) Peters, Adele (2015). Could We End Road Rage If You Could Just Send A Smiley Face To Other Drivers? Fast Company – Co.Exist http://www.fastcoexist.com/3048032/fund-this/could-we-end-road-rage-if-y...

2) MotorMood, Kickstarter Campaign, (2015). https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/motormood/motormood-a-better-way-to...

3)  "Emoticons in mind: An event-related potential study", Social Neuroscience, 2014 Vol. 9, No. 2, 196–202, January 6, 2014

4) "The Emotional Homunculus: ERP Evidence for Independent Somatosensory Responses during Facial Emotional Processing", The Journal of Neuroscience, January 26, 2014

5) "Increasing Recognition of Happiness in Ambiguous Facial Expressions Reduces Anger and Aggressive Behaviour", Psychological Science, January 8, 2012

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