Here what Neuroscience tell us about the triggers to make us happier.
Research participants who imagined themselves pursuing professional connections at a party felt dirtier afterward, on average, than those who had imagined themselves merely meeting a lot of people at the party and having a good time (2.13 versus 1.43 on a five-point dirty-feelings scale), say Tiziana Casciaro of the University of Toronto, Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School, and Maryam Kouchaki of Harvard University. Moreover, people in the former group were later more likely to take a favorable view of cleaning products such as soap, toothpaste, and window cleaner. This and other experiments suggest that networking in pursuit of professional goals can harm a person’s sense of personal moral purity, the authors write in a working paper.
SOURCE: The Contaminating Effects of Building Instrumental Ties: How Networking Can Make Us Feel Dirty
When considering MBA programs and colleges that move up in published rankings, people are most impressed when the movement crosses a round-number category, such as from number 11 to number 10, as opposed to moving from 10 to 9, say Mathew S. Isaac of Seattle University and Robert M. Schindler of Rutgers. This “top ten” effect shows that consumers mentally divide lengthy rankings into smaller sets of categories and exaggerate differences between numbers that cross category boundaries. Organizations that depend on their public rankings would do well to invest aggressively in improving their positions if doing so might push them into a higher round-number category, the research suggests.
SOURCE: The Top-Ten Effect: Consumers’ Subjective Categorization of Ranked Lists
Research participants who watched silent videos of chamber-music ensembles were 26% more accurate at guessing which ones had been winners of past musical contests (such as the Saint Paul String Quartet Competition) than people who had watched both audio and video of the groups, says Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London. Participants who listened to audio without video were the worst at guessing the competition winners. In evaluating the groups without sound, the viewers were apparently responding to what they perceived as strong leadership and indications of group unity, such as the players’ proximity and similarity of appearance—probably the same factors that had influenced the judges of the competitions, Tsay says.
SOURCE: The vision heuristic: Judging music ensembles by sight alone
It’s known that fantasizing about an ideal future makes individuals decrease their effort, but can the same effect be seen on the scale of a national population? After studying U.S. presidential inaugural addresses, a team led by A. Timur Sevincer of the University of Hamburg in Germany concluded that the answer is yes: Positive thinking about the future, as expressed in these speeches, predicted declines in GDP over the subsequent presidential term. Happy talk may prevent people from preparing for difficulties, the researchers say.
SOURCE: Positive Thinking About the Future in Newspaper Reports and Presidential Addresses Predicts Economic Downturn
In an experiment, people who sat by a messy desk that was scattered with papers felt more frustrated and weary and took nearly 10% longer to answer questions in a color-and-word-matching task, in comparison with those who were seated by a neatly arranged desk, say doctoral candidate Boyoun (Grace) Chae of the University of British Columbia and Rui (Juliet) Zhu of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in China. A disorganized environment appears to threaten people’s sense of personal control, and the threat depletes their ability to regulate themselves, the researchers say.
SOURCE: Environmental Disorder Leads to Self-Regulatory Failure
When research participants were asked to publicly identify words shown on a screen, those whose vision had been blocked nevertheless sometimes disagreed with those who had been able to see the screen–in fact, they disagreed at least 27% of the time, says a team led by Bert H. Hodges of Gordon College and the University of Connecticut. Why did they intentionally make statements that everyone knew to be wrong? Out of a desire to honestly communicate their own ignorance, the researchers say. The findings demonstrate that human interactions aren’t always guided by simplistic parameters such as accuracy or even conformity; sometimes, people make surprising choices in order to convey such internal values as truthfulness.
SOURCE: Speaking From Ignorance: Not Agreeing With Others We Believe Are Correct
An analysis of polling data from 132 nations shows that religious belief appears to be the main reason why people in poor countries see greater meaning in life than residents of wealthy countries, say Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia and Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among the nations with the highest sense that life has meaning are Niger, Sierra Leone, Togo, Ethiopia, Laos, and Ecuador. By connecting daily experiences with a coherent belief system, religion plays a critical role in helping people construct meaning out of extreme hardship, the authors say.
SOURCE: Residents of Poor Nations Have a Greater Sense of Meaning in Life Than Residents of Wealthy Nations
A Simple Daily Intervention Decreases Employee Stress
Stress levels and physical complaints declined by roughly 15% after employees were directed to spend 10 minutes writing about three things that had gone well each day, says a team of researchers led by Joyce E. Bono of the University of Florida. At the end of the work day, the employees logged on to a website where they were asked to write about events large or small, personal or work-related, and explain why they had gone well. The findings suggest that this intervention could have important effects on employee stress and health, the researchers say.
SOURCE: Building Positive Resources: Effects of Positive Events and Positive Reflection on Work Stress and Health
Children whose self-esteem was at least 1.3 standard deviations below average reacted to lavish praise (“You made an incredibly beautiful drawing”) by becoming less willing to take on challenges, possibly out of fear that they might not be able to perform as “incredibly” well in the future, according to a study led by Eddie Brummelman of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Children with high self-esteem did the opposite, responding to lavish praise by seeking greater challenges. Although many educators encourage parents and teachers to shower praise on pupils, adults should resist the temptation in the case of children who appear to have low self-esteem, the researchers say.
SOURCE: “That’s Not Just Beautiful–That’s Incredibly Beautiful!”: The Adverse Impact of Inflated Praise on Children With Low Self-Esteem