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Posts Tagged ‘Happiness’

Money Only Makes You Happy If It Makes You Richer Than Your Neighbors

Posted by Sun on June 1, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 22, 2010) — A study by researchers at the University of Warwick and Cardiff University has found that money only makes people happier if it improves their social rank. The researchers found that simply being highly paid wasn’t enough — to be happy, people must perceive themselves as being more highly paid than their friends and work colleagues.

The researchers were seeking to explain why people in rich nations have not become any happier on average over the last 40 years even though economic growth has led to substantial increases in average incomes.

Lead researcher on the paper Chris Boyce from the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology said: “Our study found that the ranked position of an individual’s income best predicted general life satisfaction, while the actual amount of income and the average income of others appear to have no significant effect. Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.”

The study entitled “Money and Happiness: Rank of Income, Not Income, Affects Life Satisfaction” will be published in the journal Psychological Science. The researchers looked at data on earnings and life satisfaction from seven years of the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS), which is a representative longitudinal sample of British households.

First they examined how life satisfaction was related to how much money each person earned. They found however that satisfaction was much more strongly related to the ranked position of the person’s income (compared to people of the same gender, age, level of education, or from the same geographical area).

The results explain why making everybody in society richer will not necessarily increase overall happiness — because it is only having a higher income than other people that matters.

The three authors of the paper were Chris Boyce, Gordon Brown (both of the University of Warwick’s Department of Psychology), and Simon Moore of Cardiff University.

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People Sometimes Less Trusting When in a Good Mood

Posted by Sun on June 1, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2010) — It seems to make perfect sense: happy people are trusting people. But a new study suggests that, in some instances, people may actually be less trusting of others when they are in a pleasant mood.

“A person’s mood may determine how much they rely on subtle — or not so subtle — cues when evaluating whether to trust someone,” said Robert Lount, author of the study and assistant professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business.

In five separate experiments, Lount found that people in a positive mood were more likely than those in a neutral mood to follow cues or stereotypes when determining whether they should trust someone.

If you are predisposed to trust a stranger — because he belongs to the same club as you, or he has a “trustworthy” face — a happy mood makes you even more likely to trust him.

But if you are predisposed to not trust him, a positive mood will make you even less trusting than normal.

“I think the assumption is that if you make someone happy, they are going to be more likely to trust you. But that only works if they are already predisposed to trust you,” Lount said.

“If you’re a professional meeting new clients, you may think if you buy them a nice lunch and make them happy, you’re building trust. But that can actually backfire if the client has some reason to be suspicious of you,” he said.

The study appears in the March 2010 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

All five experiments involved undergraduate students who took part in various scenarios in which they were put into positive or neutral moods, and were then given the opportunity to show trust or distrust toward a stranger.

In one study, for example, participants were first asked to write one of two short essays. Some wrote about an experience that made them happy while others wrote about what they did in a typical day. Those writing tasks were previously shown to put people in a happy or neutral mood.

The participants were then shown a picture of a person and asked a variety of questions designed to find out how much they would trust him. For example, one question asked how likely the participants thought it would be that the person would intentionally misrepresent their point of view to others.

All the pictures were created by a software program that made the faces appear trustworthy or untrustworthy to most people. A trustworthy person had a round face, round eyes and was clean shaven. An untrustworthy person had a narrow face, narrow eyes and facial hair.

The results were striking: participants in a positive mood evaluated the person with the trustworthy features as more trustworthy than did those in a neutral mood.

Conversely, the happy people were less trusting of the person with untrustworthy features than were those in the neutral mood.

“For those in a good mood, it all depended on the cues that the pictured person gave that suggested whether he was trustworthy or not,” Lount said.

But why would happy people rely more on stereotypes and cues to evaluate a person’s trustworthiness?

Research suggests the answer relies on motivation, Lount said.

“When you’re happy, you’re less motivated to carefully process information,” he said.

“You feel like everything is going OK, so there is no reason to search out new information. You can rely on your previous expectations to guide you through a situation.”

Another one of the experiments provided evidence for that theory. In this experiment, the participants were put in a happy or neutral mood. They were then asked to memorize a nine-digit number, which they would be asked to repeat in a few minutes.

Then, they were shown pictures of untrustworthy faces and asked to rate how trustworthy each face looked.

In this case, people in a neutral mood responded much as did the happy people in the previous experiments — they rated untrustworthy faces as even more untrustworthy.

“In this experiment, people’s minds were busy trying to remember the number so they processed information differently than they normally did,” Lount said.

“They relied more on the cues, just like happy people did.”

Lount said people aren’t aware of this process and don’t even know how their mood is affecting how they evaluate others.

“You need to be careful, especially when you’re happy. You should ask yourself how your mood may be affecting your willingness to trust or distrust another person.”

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Happiness Has a Dark Side

Posted by Sun on June 1, 2012

ScienceDaily (May 16, 2011) — It seems like everyone wants to be happier and the pursuit of happiness is one of the foundations of American life. But even happiness can have a dark side, according to the authors of a new review article published inPerspectives on Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. They say that happiness shouldn’t be thought of as a universally good thing, and outline four ways in which this is the case. Indeed, not all types and degrees of happiness are equally good, and even pursuing happiness can make people feel worse.

People who want to feel happier can choose from a multitude of books that tell them how to do it. But setting a goal of happiness can backfire, says June Gruber of Yale University, who co- wrote the article with Iris Mauss of the University of Denver and Maya Tamir of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It’s one of the many downsides of happiness — people who strive for happiness may end up worse off than when they started.

The tools often suggested for making yourself happy aren’t necessarily bad — like taking time every day to think about things you’re happy about or grateful for, or setting up situations that are likely to make you happy. “But when you’re doing it with the motivation or expectation that these things ought to make you happy, that can lead to disappointment and decreased happiness,” Gruber says. For example, one study by Mauss and colleagues found that people who read a newspaper article extolling the value of happiness felt worse after watching a happy film than people who read a newspaper article that didn’t mention happiness — presumably because they were disappointed they didn’t feel happier. When people don’t end up as happy as they’d expected, their feeling of failure can make them feel even worse.

Too much happiness can also be a problem. One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers. Researchers have found that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks. For example, people who have mania, such as in bipolar disorder, have an excess degree of positive emotions that can lead them to take risks, like substance abuse, driving too fast, or spending their life savings. But even for people who don’t have a psychiatric disorder, “too high of a degree of happiness can be bad,” Gruber says.

Another problem is feeling happiness inappropriately; obviously, it’s not healthy to feel happy when you see someone crying over the loss of a loved one or when you hear a friend was injured in a car crash. Yet research by Gruber and her colleagues has found this inappropriate happiness also occurs in people with mania. Happiness also can mean being short on negative emotions — which have their place in life as well. Fear can keep you from taking unnecessary risks; guilt can help remind you to behave well toward others.

Indeed, psychological scientists have discovered what appears to really increase happiness. “The strongest predictor of happiness is not money, or external recognition through success or fame,” Gruber says. “It’s having meaningful social relationships.” That means the best way to increase your happiness is to stop worrying about being happy and instead divert your energy to nurturing the social bonds you have with other people. “If there’s one thing you’re going to focus on, focus on that. Let all the rest come as it will.”

The article is entitled “A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good.”

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Happiness Lengthens Life

Posted by Sun on June 1, 2012

ScienceDaily (Aug. 5, 2008) — Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill. As a result, happy people live longer. The size of the effect on longevity is comparable to that of smoking or not.

This is concluded from an analysis of 30 follow-up studies published in a recent issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies.

There have been more reports of happy people living longer, but for long it was unclear whether happiness causes longevity, since it can also be that good health add both to happiness and longevity.

Scientists assess causality using long-term follow-up studies, taking initial health into account. The results of such studies seemed contradictory; several studies found the expected causal effect of happiness on longevity, but other studies found no effect and some observed even earlier death among the happy. The analysis of 30 follow-up studies showed that the difference is in the people under investigation.

Happiness does not lengthen the life of seriously ill people, but it does prolong the life of healthy people. Happiness appears to protect against falling ill. One of the mechanisms behind that effect seems to be that chronic unhappiness causes stress, which on its turn reduces immune response.

Another possible mechanism is that happiness adds to the chance of adopting a healthy life style.

An implication of this finding is that public health can also be promoted by policies that aim at greater happiness for a greater number.

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