Take a look at the photograph below – a classic shot of a couple on holiday, brilliantly photo-bombed by a squirrel. Chances are it just made you smile. You wouldn’t be alone, as this image came top in a new poll to find the happiest photograph, with 71% of people unable to resist smiling at it.
Coca-Cola’s mission was to identify snaps that provoke an instant happy response. In a poll of 2,015 adults, this photograph - taken by a couple on holiday in Canada in 2009 – made more people smile than any other. The squirrel saw off stiff competition from photographs of beautiful landscapes, silly human antics, babies, dogs, cats and over 10 other types of animal, including social media sensation and ‘world’s happiest animal’ – the quokka.
Other smile-inducing images making the top 10 included a gorgeous grinning baby in a pink hat, a smiling snowy owl and a curious giraffe, which all evoked smiles from seven out of 10 people, followed by a cute dog lying asleep on the grass, which had a smile score of 69%*.
To celebrate its Choose Happiness campaign, Coca-Cola worked with renowned picture agency Getty Images on the research. Asked to click on photographs that made them smile, people were found to be more likely to smile at an image of a cat than at a shot of a dog. Images featuring babies made less people smile than those featuring animals.
So why is the squirrel shot so successful at evoking a happy response? It seems the image is layered with at least five psychological factors that have been proven to have a positive effect on the viewer.
The Photograph’s ‘Happy Anatomy’
Psychologist Dr Simon Moore breaks down the ‘happy anatomy’ of the squirrel image:
Dr Moore adds: “The unexpected element in this shot, and our response to it, may help to explain why photo-bombing has become such a popular trend – it results in an unexpected emotional experience. Sudden ‘nice’ surprises are good as psychologically we feel we got more than we were expecting.”
So what are the top tips for taking ‘happy snaps’? Dr Moore advises: “The results of this poll suggest that the key ingredients for capturing pictures that make people smile are actually very simple. Start with a cute – preferably baby – animal, add a beautiful, natural backdrop, a grin or two, and a (nice) surprise and you won’t go too far wrong.”
Dr Moore observes: “The research results are fascinating as they suggest we are very influenced by our instincts and that deep-rooted systems still play a significant role in how we react emotionally to things around us. It makes me smile as a psychologist to think that whoever you are, for a fleeting moment, a cheeky squirrel can make so many of us respond in the same way.”
Bobby Brittain, Marketing Director, Coca-Cola Great Britain said: "The findings suggest that it’s often small things - like a cute animal or unexpected photo-bomb - that make us feel happy. Our Choose Happiness campaign is all about inspiring people to appreciate the little things that raise a smile. That's why we’re encouraging people to capture whatever makes them happy this summer and giving away up to one million selfie sticks.”
*See research summary, the top performing images and the psychology of them in the separate document.
Notes to Editors
• Research conducted via online interviews with 2,015 adults from 2-7 June 2015. Respondents aged between 16-64 and living in GB were shown 100 of the most popular images tagged as ‘happy’ on Getty Images and were asked which ones made them smile. The images were mixed up and rotated to avoid any order effect and shown in groups of 10 across 10 different screens.
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About Coca-Cola Great Britain
Coca Cola Great Britain is responsible for marketing 19 brands and over 100 products to consumers across Great Britain. Led by Coca Cola, one of the world's most valuable and recognisable brands, our company portfolio includes Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Oasis, glaceau vitaminwater, glaceau smartwater, Schweppes, 5 Alive, Lilt, Kia Ora and Powerade. For more information about Coca Cola in Great Britain, please visit our website at www.coca-cola.co.uk.