The science of happiness and why we are not

My latest Monitor on Psychologyfrom the APA (December, 07) has a couple of short articles on happiness. One mentions that 1998 study that found Midwesterners predicting Californians would be happier because of their climate. Apparently not true. The author suggests that we’re not that good at predicting what makes us happy and are likely to focus on one positive or negative and neglect other factors that might be important. This sound quite true to me. We tend to point to particular anecdotes from our day/life and use those to confirm our set opinion about whether we are happy or not.

One other little tidbit on p. 38. “White Americans expect to be happy, so day-t0-day positive events have less effect on their overall mood than such events have on Asians and Asian Americans… Negative events, however, are a different story.”

It appears that it takes two positive events to offset a negative experience for White Americans. For Asian Americans, it takes only one.

Interesting. The researching author is quoted as saying, “the happier you get, the more powerful negative events become.” I suspect the truth is more like this. The happier you think you should and can be, the more powerful negative events become. I’m not sure we are more happy. But, I am sure we think we should be.   

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Filed under counseling science, Cultural Anthropology, Psychology

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