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Thu, 20 Dec 2007 05:05:16 GMT

Is Happier Always Better?

Is Happier Always Better?

People around the world value happiness - that is, feeling good - above intelligence, success and even material wealth (Diener & Oishi, 2006). This makes sense because happiness is associated with so many positive outcomes: satisfaction with personal relationships, better jobs, better performance in those jobs and a higher income.

But happiness is much more complex than this. For example dissatisfaction with our current job probably helps motivate us to get a better one. A person who is happy with their job is less likely to strive for a change. In our relationships, though, less happiness might encourage us to chop and change our partner, perhaps leading to a less satisfactory social life.

What, then, is the optimum level of happiness?

Some of the first hints at the answer to this question are provided by a new study carried out by Oishi, Diener and Diener (2007) who have analysed an impressive amount of data. Thousands of people in almost 100 countries answered questions about their happiness, income levels and relationships over decades of their lives.

To give you an idea of where the data came from, in one dataset freshman students were asked how cheerful they were at the start of their courses. Nineteen years later they reported their income. Other similar datasets were obtained in Australia, Germany and the UK.

Across all the studies, the data revealed two very interesting findings:

1. Happiness and income
Overall, higher levels of income and education were associated with higher levels of happiness, but with one important exception. At the highest levels of happiness, educational attainment and income started to decrease.

In fact the relationship between achievement and happiness is curvilinear - the graph looks like a hill with the peak at about ''7'' or ''8'' on a scale of 1 to 10 where ''1'' is very dissatisfied and ''10'' is very satisfied. Up around 10, where people report the highest levels of satisfaction, their income and education have significantly dropped compared to those who peg it at 7 or 8.

2. Happiness and relationships
There''s a subtly different story for satisfaction with relationships. Instead of seeing a curve there is a straight line. So the happier we are, the more likely we are to be satisfied with our relationships. Those scoring a ''10'' on the happiness scale are also the most satisfied with their relationships.

Varying effects of happiness
What I like about this study is that it begins to show the complexity of happiness: that it can have different effects on different parts of our lives.

It also challenges the idea that more happiness is always better. It''s difficult to be much more specific than that because this study measures people''s happiness in a very general way.

Happiness is, of course, bound to vary from day to day. These variations certainly have important effects on other aspects of our lives. For example, dissatisfaction with our job may prove a powerful motivation for us to make an improvement. After that change is made, our happiness increases.

Studies such as this one clearly cannot tell us much about these dynamics but what they can do is hint at overall patterns. They emphasise the fact that extremely high levels of happiness are not always ''a good thing''.

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Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2006). The desirability of happiness across cultures. Unpublished manuscript, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Oishi, S., Diener, E., & Diener, E. (2007) The Optimum Level of Well-Being. Can People Be Too Happy? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2, 346-360.Labels: Happiness, Positive Psychology

Posted by: Jerry      Read more     Source

Sun, 16 Dec 2007 14:17:28 GMT

Buying Christmas Gifts for Her

Buying Christmas Gifts for Her

It's that time of year. You need to buy Christmas gifts for everyone on your list. And there's a name on that list that you're just not sure about. Maybe you've only gone on one or two dates with her but you're planning on seeing her again. You think that a gift is in order but you haven't been seeing each other long enough to be sure. You want her to know she's starting to be special to you but you don't want a gift that says you're more interested than you are.

Here are some great (but emotionally safe) gifts that you can give her this Christmas:

- Coffee or hot chocolate samplers. If you know which one she drinks, you can warm her heart by getting a gift basket filled with it.

- CD/DVD. Getting her a CD or DVD that you know she wants shows that you've been paying attention to what she's mentioned (or at least put in her profile favorites).

- Magazine subscription. Get her a magazine that she probably doesn't read yet but which is related to a topic you know she likes.

Gifts that you'll want to stay away from if you aren't quite sure that this relationship is going to last too long into the new year include lingerie, jewelry and anything overly personal. You want the gift to convey what you truly feel about her this Christmas so if you're not quite sure, keep it at sweet but casual.

Don't forget that there are other women in your life besides this lady - moms, sisters and co-workers all need gifts too. Check out Tips for Men Shopping for the Women in their Lives">this article for ideas for those women.

Question for the gals: Would you prefer that someone you've just started dating gets you something this year or ignores the holiday altogether?

Posted by: Kathryn Vercillo      Read more     Source

Tue, 11 Dec 2007 02:59:23 GMT

Future scanner

Future scanner

Want to take a look into the future to plan your future strategy? That's anyone's guess. But now offers the Future Scanner, a vaguely Digg-tool that gives some hints of future directions. From cell phones with mini-projectors hitting the market next year to GM introducing an electronic car in 2010.

Not the best designed site, which means it won't appeal to everyone, but it's worth a peek.

As for predicting the future, it's still fraught because unexpected stuff will always keep happening. Think of 9/11, think of the rise of Google. I explore those issues here. Which means tools like this will always have limitations.

Still, Future Scanner is worth checking out, even if it's only to give you a sense of context of what's going on.

Posted by: leon      Read more     Source

Tue, 04 Dec 2007 01:56:42 GMT

Way Cool Post

Way Cool Post

Frequent readers may know that a prominent sub-theme of this blog is the relationship between science and art, a subject of considerable interest to myself. Scientist/Artist Jessica Palmer at Bioephemera has an excellent post on the subject.

Although the article is mostly about whether art can inform science, I found it jarring at some points because my view of art and science is so conflated, namely that science IS art (note this doesn''t make the reverse also true). I don''t know if Jessica would agree with me on that point, I was struck by this sentence from her post:

"Even in the simplest botanical print, or inventory of a wonder cabinet, the artist always “frames” the science - it can’t be helped! Choice of medium, choice of angle, choice of context - all of these are choices. The line between representation and story-telling is very fuzzy indeed....."

Now substitute scientist for artist. Science, then, is a way of constructing a world-view from our experiences. This does not imply that science is making stuff up and passing it off as "truth". In fact quite the opposite; fiction is abhorrent in science as, I would argue, it is in art. Look at the following depiction of three molecules. Which one looks "real" to you?
My gut reaction on looking at the picture (before reading the text) was that there was something wrong with the one on the right. The one on the left was better, but there was still something weird about it. The middle one looked "right". As it turns out, "#3, the DNA cube, is a fictitious structure - but a real (though synthetic) molecule; #1, a nanotube synthase, is the one that’s entirely made up. #2, the rotary motor, is the real structure." Now I am totally not a structural biologist and I spend very little time looking at molecular structures. Why then did the middle one just "feel" right to me? I have no clue.

But I suspect that it''s because science is art and beauty is our guide. "Beauty is truth, truth beauty", right?

Queen of Decay
watercolor on paper
Jessica Palmer 2005

Posted by: Dennehy      Read more     Source

Tue, 20 Nov 2007 01:44:11 GMT

The best season

The best season

I believe I have mentioned here once or twice that fall is my favorite season. It always makes me reflective. For some reason I begin to think about all of the things I meant to do, and I plot and plan how I might get them done sooner or later or not at all.

I suppose the shorter days and the falling leaves remind me that winter is coming — a time when many things are more difficult and better left for the warmer months. But there is savor to fall as well. I think I appreciate the sounds and smells and textures of the forest more. Perhaps that is because I am no longer overwhelmed by the heat or the insects, so I am free to experience the more subtle parts of the forest. Or it may be that I am more aware that the opportunity doesn’t last forever. Certainly the winter forest has its allures, but I think the forest as it is beginning to fall asleep is the most alluring.

It’s a bittersweet time. I wish I had found more chances to swim in the lake. I wish we had camped more. I wish I had devoted more effort to identifying the trees and plants. I wish I had had more patience to wait for the critters to cross my path.

Fall always intensifies my feelings about being in the forest. I’m grateful for that.

The order form for trees from the Conservation Department nursery is supposed to come online today. I intend to order another twenty-five shortleaf pines for replanting (hopeful, ever hopeful), but I’m eager to see what new interesting plants might be available. More nannyberries, anyone?

Missouri calendar:

  • Most leaves have fallen; forest floor blanketed.

Posted by: Roundrockjournal      Read more     Source

Tue, 20 Nov 2007 00:54:50 GMT

Brick Lane

Brick Lane
"Sarah Gavron''s feature version of Monica Ali''s novel represents a modest slimming down of the original''s dimensions; what emerges could almost be described as a chamber-piece, set in one cramped east London flat," writes Peter Bradshaw. "Perhaps venturing out into the real Brick Lane would have been impolitic, considering the unedifying row that surrounded its filming, and some might argue that there is a sense of withdrawal or retreat in the movie as a whole." The Guardian also offers an accompanying "quick world tour" of major cities as they''ve been depicted on film.

"In every respect, Brick Lane is a shadow of its source material," writes Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman. "I was sure the film would show some guts once it turned to the post-9/11 hostility toward Muslims. But all that happened was that everyone started talking as though they knew they were characters in a film about multicultural Britain."

Posted by: dwhudson      Read more     Source

Wed, 07 Nov 2007 03:55:05 GMT

Patricia Field for Payless: For Sale!

Patricia Field for Payless: For Sale!

Remember Patricia Field''s Payless line, scheduled to be released this holiday season? Well, two of the designs are available for sale at

Sushi boot, $55

I don''t love the Sushi boot, but I think the Saki pump is pretty cute, even if it''s an ankle-breaker. The designs strike me as very playful, and very Patricia. I love the names of the shoes, too; so far I know that three of the shoe names are Saki, Sushi, and Tempora. Super fun!

What do you think?

I''m hoping that Payless steps it up this time. I saw Lela Rose''s line in the store a few weeks ago and was sorely disappointed at how cheap it looked.

Posted by: Kori      Read more     Source

Fri, 02 Nov 2007 01:06:02 GMT

Different Versions Of The Mona Lisa

Different Versions Of The Mona Lisa

Different versions of the Mona Lisa.
With Marilyn Manson, Barbie, Paris Hilton, and yes, even Osama Bin Laden.

(via constant ravings)

Posted by: Gerard      Read more     Source

Sat, 27 Oct 2007 21:32:33 GMT

The Living and the Dead

The Living and the Dead
"A bizarre psychological study of degeneration and dependency, The Living and the Dead is a horror movie only in the most literal sense," writes Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Times. "Skirting genre conventions, Simon Rumley's twisted feature inhabits shores where the gore is minimal and the demons unseen - neither of which makes it any less disconcerting."

"Part neo-gothic horror, part empathetic schizoid freak-out, The Living and the Dead suggests an unlikely cross between Spider and Requiem for a Dream, albeit one whose whole is less than the sum of its parts," writes Rob Humanick at Slant. That said, "Rumley - who wrote the film in response to his mother's short-lived battle with cancer - is a great humanist. The Living and the Dead, then, is most effective as a promise of greater things to come."

Posted by: dwhudson      Read more     Source

Tue, 23 Oct 2007 01:13:33 GMT

New Camera Buyers' Guide

New Camera Buyers' Guide

Maybe it's too early to hear sleigh bells, but it's not too early to start thinking about what kind of digital camera you'd like to see on Christmas morning. Online retailer Adorama has some suggestions in its just released .

"With literally hundreds of cameras to choose from, it's easy to get lost while trying to make a decision," the Guide's author, Jason Resnick, said in a statement. "We've cut that list down to the 30 best models, and divided them up so that readers can find the kind of camera that best fits their needs."

"In putting this guide together," he added, "I was amazed at how much camera you can get for under $200. And for a bit more, you can get cameras with features nobody even dreamed about a few years ago."

The Guide is part of Adorama's efforts to add "sticky content" to its e-commerce site. For example, since August, the site's editors have been running a feature to help shutterbugs improve their pictures.

Posted by: John Mello      Read more     Source

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