When both the original study and its failed replication are correct: Feeling observed eliminates the facial-feedback effect

Tom Noah*, Yaacov Schul, Ruth Mayo

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


This article suggests a theoretically driven explanation for a replication failure of one of the basic findings in psychology: the facial-feedback effect. According to the facial-feedback hypothesis, the facial activity associated with particular emotional expressions can influence people's affective experiences. Recently, a replication attempt of this effect in 17 laboratories around the world failed to find any support for the effect. We hypothesize that the reason for the failure of replication is that the replication protocol deviated from that of the original experiment in a critical factor. In all of the replication studies, participants were alerted that they would be monitored by a video camera, whereas the participants in the original study were not monitored, observed, or recorded. Previous findings indicate that feeling monitored or observed reduces reliance on internal cues in making judgments. Therefore, we hypothesize that recording the participants in the replication experiments reduced their reliance on the facial-feedback. To test the hypothesis, we replicated the facialfeedback experiment in 2 conditions: one with a video-camera and one without it. The results revealed a significant facial-feedback effect in the absence of a camera, which was eliminated in the camera's presence. These findings suggest that minute differences in the experimental protocol might lead to theoretically meaningful changes in the outcomes. In our view, the theoretical and methodological approach advocated by our study changes failed replications from being the "end of the road" regarding entire fields of study into a new road for growth regarding our understanding of human nature.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)657-664
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Camera presence
  • Context effects
  • Facial-feedback
  • Feeling observed
  • Replications in social psychology


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