Frowning at bright sunlight can actually trigger feelings of anger and aggression.
Gimme the gist
“The Sun made me do it” is an awful excuse for doing something bad. It certainly wouldn’t hold up in court. Remember how blaming the Sun worked out for Meursault in Albert Camus’s The Stranger? Not well, that’s how.
Besides, what does the Sun have to do with anything? It’s not like it can affect your mood and feelings.
Except, it totally can…
Italian researchers wanted to test an aspect of the facial feedback hypothesis, which is the idea that facial expressions—even when forced—can affect your mood. For instance, smiling should automatically make you slightly happier.
More specifically, the Italian team wanted to see if bright sunlight that forces people to involuntarily frown (or squint) would result in feelings of aggression. To test this, they went to the beach. As one does.
At the beach, the researchers proceeded to stop and interview 297 random people who were either walking toward the Sun or away from it. These beachgoers had to self-assess their own feelings of anger and aggressiveness, presumably while factoring out the impact of being pestered by unsolicited survey questions during their leisurely stroll.
Funnily (scarily) enough, the people that had to walk toward the Sun, frowning in the process, consistently reported feeling more angry and aggressive than the “Sun at my back” crowd.
To recap: Looking at bright sunlight makes you frown, which in turn is capable of making you feel more angry and aggressive. That’s the kind of logic you may hear from a charlatan trying to sell you some shady “mood-calming” sunglasses, but the science seems to back this up.
I still wouldn’t advise using that excuse in court, though.
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Sun-induced frowning fosters aggressive feelings
- Popular Science: Frowning In Bright Sunlight Can Make You Angry
- Smithsonian: Frowning at the Sun Makes You Angrier Overall