A little groggy today?
Put on your game face.
Matthew Richesin, a postgraduate student at the University of Tennessee, probably heard that one before too. So he figured he would see if having a "game face" really upped one’s game.
For the research, published in the journal Stress and Health, Richesin was inspired by shirts at his own school emblazoned with the words, “Get Your Game Face On.”
While Richesin noted previous psychology studies suggesting facial expressions have an impact on mood, there was scant evidence it gave people an actual performance boost.
“There’s anecdotal evidence of game face having an impact based on its common use among athletes,” Richesin notes in a news release. “But we wanted to see if it would help on physical and mental challenges from a scientific perspective.”
The power of the face
So Richesin and his colleagues devised two simple tests. For the first, they asked 62 people to put their hands in ice-cold water — and hold it there for a few minutes. The second experiment required participants to sleuth out a puzzle.
For each experiment, the participants were divided in half — one group was told to keep their expressions intense and earnest. The other group was allowed to let their faces do whatever their faces felt like doing in the moment.
The result? The "game face" crowd not only performed, on average, about 20% better, they also recovered from stress — that would be the ice water — more effectively.
But what exactly is a game face? For the study, Richesin and his colleagues defined is as “a serious, focused, or determined facial expression.”
It’s certainly not to be confused with the face you may currently be wearing — one of incredulity and deep suspicion.
Nor is it in the same ballpark as a fake smile, which doesn’t do a whole lot for anyone.
No, if Richesin’s research holds true, you’re going to need to strap on one of these:
Or maybe try one of the most famous games faces of all time — the one legendary swimmer Michael Phelps wore before dominating the men’s 200m butterfly at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
That’s a game face.
In any case, Richesin suggests we don’t actually have to be competing for Olympic gold to reap the benefits of a scrunched-up "I-got-this" face.
“If making a game face has the potential to improve performance, we may find this concept can have application outside of the traditional venue of sports,” he notes in the release.
So go ahead. Try one on. At the very least, you'll look like you know what you're doing.