My long self-experimentation paper (Example 2) describes how I discovered that seeing faces in the morning improves my mood the next day. At the time I used TV faces. I tried different-sized TVs and found that the TV that produced the most life-size faces also produced the biggest effect. I also found that distance mattered: A conversational distance produced better results than a larger distance. The faces need to be looking at the camera. Clearly the TV faces were replacements for what our Stone-Age ancestors saw when they chatted with their neighbors soon after getting up. The faces/mood effect, I believe, is produced by a mechanism whose function was to synchronize the sleep and mood of people living together. It is hard to work with someone who is (a) asleep or (b) in a bad mood.
I needed 30-60 minutes of faces to get a big easy-to-notice effect. At first I used a variety of talk shows, then concentrated on two C-SPAN shows, Booknotes and Washington Journal. However, Booknotes is only once/week and Washington Journal is pretty boring. Soon after I wrote to C-SPAN suggesting they re-air old Booknotes, they started doing just that. Encore Booknotes was a regular feature of Book TV. But I still had to watch a lot of Washington Journal and I wasn’t as interested in politics as Brian Lamb.
Then I realized I could look at my own face in a mirror. This had the advantage that the face was exactly life-size. I listened to books or interviews or other stuff at the same time. Lately I have been listening to Authors@Google talks.
Today I realized I could also use the vlogs on YouTube, the ones where people speak right at the camera. I’ve known about them — who doesn’t, I suppose — for a long time but there have always been two problem: 1. Boring. 2. Too small. Today I came across a long series done by LucyinLA (a struggling actress named Laura Segura) and discovered that some of them were not boring, such as this one. There was still the problem that her face is a little too small. Then I realized I can increase the size of anything on my screen by increasing the display resolution (go to the Display icon on Control Panel).
Here’s an example of the right stimuli:
I still need to find enough non-boring vlogs but that shouldn’t be too hard. Whether I will switch to YouTube faces I don’t know but you, Dear Reader, can now see for yourself without any special equipment. You should look at the faces soon after you wake up in the morning.
Addendum: Nansen’s comment about using a cheap mirror shows that I think of a $5 mirror as “special equipment” and an internet-connected computer as not special. It’s true, I do. As for the best time to see faces, all I know is it’s quite early. I figured it out for myself by trial and error.