Thirsty people can be made to drink more than they normally would by being exposed to subliminal facial expressions, which are not seen consciously. In a recent study, hidden smiles persuaded people to drink specific beverages than neutral expressions did. Frowns caused avoidance. Consumers were willing to pay up to three times as much for a drink that was poured with a smile, and they even wanted seconds, without knowing what the drink was. When questioned, they weren’t aware of the manipulation. Psychologist Piotr Winkielman says, “This is the first demonstration that you can influence consequential, real-world behavior without affecting conscious feeling. We can change what you do, without changing how you feel.”

His explanation for this? “Feelings are often slow. In a frightening situation, you run first, feel afraid later.”

In a recent study, subjects were asked how thirsty and hungry they were. Next, they were shown a series of photographs of happy, angry or neutral faces, masked each time by a neutral face. Consciously, the subjects were aware only of seeing the second, neutral image.

Participants freely helped themselves to an unknown beverage and drank as much as they wanted. Unknown to them, the amounts they consumed were recorded. They poured and drank more than twice the amount of the mystery beverage after seeing the subliminal happy faces.

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