“To thine own self be true,” advises Polonius in Hamlet. Being your authentic self is of course at the core of existential philosophy, and the problem of faking it has troubled many leading thinkers from Sartre to Jon Bon Jovi. Hiding your true feelings isn’t good for your health, and now it turns out that being a phony can alter how others see you. Researchers were curious how emotional suppression affects social interaction, reports New York Magazine. “People who use expressive suppression experience social costs. They have less social support, less satisfying social lives, and they experience trouble getting close to others. So the next question is, why — what is going wrong?”
Oddly, Meg Ryan faking an orgasm helped them determine why. The researchers videotaped four actors as they watched the funny scene from When Harry Met Sally, as well as a sad scene from The Champ. The actors were told either to react naturally or to suppress their emotions (i.e. fake a reaction). The tapes were then shown (without audio) to participants who were either randomly assigned the context in which the video was made or who were unaware why the actors were reacting in a particular way. They were then asked to judge the actors’ emotions and personalities. “What we found, in a nutshell, is that other people judge suppressors to be low in extraversion and low in agreeableness. Or in more everyday language, they seem like the sort of people who are socially distant and indifferent to others’ feelings. And those impressions help explain why others don’t want to get close to them.” In other words, that annoying adolescent Holden Caulfield was right to hate phonies all along.