Tuesday, December 30, 2008

World Database of Happiness

The World Database of Happiness, a project of Erasmus University's (Rotterdam) Ruut Veenhoven, is a good resource of research on the topic...seems to have been last updated on 11/08

Also check out this SlideShare Presentation from his 11/08 "Thoughts on Happiness" conference presentation:

And a .pdf from his 1999 article regarding "the four qualities of life:"

And finally, thinking of Rotterdam reminds me of this video .....something that personally makes me happy.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A (slightly) new twist on an old maxim

In his 1954 treatise on the topic of happiness,The Real Enjoyment of Living, Rabbi Hyman Judah Schachtel, suggested that "happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have." An April 2008 Psychological Science article describes research by Jeff Larsen and Amie McKibban into just that proposition. Undergraduates were asked whether they owned each of a list of 52 items, and then asked the extent to which they wanted those items. The relationships were then examined between these ratings and variables such as gratitude and happiness. The researchers found that subjects can become accustomed to their material possessions and come to derive little pleasure from them. On the other hand, Larsen & McKibban found that sustained gratitude and appreciation for prized belongings is associated with happiness. They conclude that "happiness is both wanting what you have and having what you want."

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A bit late for your holiday shopping consideration...

One of 2008's most discussed articles in positive psychology circles was Dunn, Aknin, & Norton's "Spending money on others promotes happiness" published in the journal Science. Brieflly, the authors examined the relationship between happiness and spending, and focused on differences between spending on self versus spending on others.

The article described three studies. One was a national survey. Another was a study of "windfall spending" (employees of a Boston medical supply company were given bonuses; spending was tracked and relationships to reported happiness were observed). The final study involved subjects randomly assigned to spend money on either themselves or others.
In this third study, the authors reported that "very minor alterations in spending allocations....may be sufficient to produce non-trivial gains in happiness on a given day."

Here's a .pdf of the article: http://research.chicagogsb.edu/cdr/docs/spendingmoney-norton.pdf

And here's an article about the study in the Boston Globe: http://www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/articles/2008/03/21/money_makes_you_happy___if_you_spend_it_on_others/

Friday, December 26, 2008


After decades of focus on pathology, psychology has just recently begun to take seriously the factors that promote human happiness and resilience. Values, friendship – these have not been on the table for serious discussion. The emerging field of positive psychology, however, is taking up the challenge. Determining what makes some people happier than others, and what makes each of us happier at some points than at others.

And there is plenty of sloppy thinking on the topic. My purpose with this blog is offering a review of the best of the scientific literature on happiness. What are the known brain-behavior relationships governing motivation and happiness, and how do concepts such as values map on to these relationships?

I’ve been bouncing these ideas off colleagues and friends for years, and now I hope to interact with you. You’re someone who is interested in brain-based happiness…and I’m interested in that. Speak to me.