Tag Archives: relationships

A Summary of Happiness Research

Dav­id Brooks brings ‘hap­pi­ness research’ back to the wider public’s atten­tion with a suc­cinct sum­mary of research into what does and does not make us happy:

Would you exchange a tre­mend­ous pro­fes­sion­al tri­umph for a severe per­son­al blow? […]

If you had to take more than three seconds to think about this ques­tion, you are abso­lutely crazy. Mar­it­al hap­pi­ness is far more import­ant than any­thing else in determ­in­ing per­son­al well-being. If you have a suc­cess­ful mar­riage, it doesn’t mat­ter how many pro­fes­sion­al set­backs you endure, you will be reas­on­ably happy. If you have an unsuc­cess­ful mar­riage, it doesn’t mat­ter how many career tri­umphs you record, you will remain sig­ni­fic­antly unful­filled.

Brooks goes on to look at the con­fus­ing cor­rel­a­tions between hap­pi­ness and wealth before dis­cuss­ing the wider “cor­res­pond­ence between per­son­al rela­tion­ships and hap­pi­ness”:

The daily activ­it­ies most asso­ci­ated with hap­pi­ness are sex, social­iz­ing after work and hav­ing din­ner with oth­ers. The daily activ­ity most injur­i­ous to hap­pi­ness is com­mut­ing. Accord­ing to one study, join­ing a group that meets even just once a month pro­duces the same hap­pi­ness gain as doub­ling your income. Accord­ing to anoth­er, being mar­ried pro­duces a psych­ic gain equi­val­ent to more than $100,000 a year.

If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neigh­bors. Levels of social trust vary enorm­ously, but coun­tries with high social trust have hap­pi­er people, bet­ter health, more effi­cient gov­ern­ment, more eco­nom­ic growth, and less fear of crime (regard­less of wheth­er actu­al crime rates are increas­ing or decreas­ing).

via Fred Wilson

I dis­cussed the ‘com­muters para­dox’ last year, not­ing that “a per­son with a one-hour com­mute has to earn 40 per­cent more money to be as sat­is­fied with life as someone who walks to the office”.

Marriage as Scope Creep

Even though mar­ried life was pro­gress­ing well and all involved were happy, Eliza­beth Weil decided to act­ively apply her­self to “the pro­ject of being a spouse” and to doc­u­ment the pro­cess.

Weil’s art­icle is slow to start but becomes an absorb­ing inquiry in to what it means to be mar­ried.

I’ve nev­er really believed that you just marry one day at the altar or before a justice of the peace. I believe that you become mar­ried — truly mar­ried — slowly, over time, through all the road-rage incid­ents and pre­colono­scopy enemas, all the small and large moments that you nev­er expec­ted to hap­pen and cer­tainly didn’t plan to endure. But then you do: you endure.

via Mar­gin­al Revolu­tion

In a sim­il­arly absorb­ing man­ner, Jonah Lehr­er dis­cusses the concept of mar­riage from a neuro­psy­cho­lo­gic­al per­spect­ive:

The only prob­lem with this romantic myth is that pas­sion is tem­por­ary. It inev­it­ably decays with time. This is not a knock against pas­sion – this is a basic fact of our nervous sys­tem. We adapt to our pleas­ures; we habitu­ate to delight. In oth­er words, the same thing hap­pens to pas­sion­ate love that hap­pens to Christ­mas presents. We’re so impossibly happy and then, with­in a mat­ter of days or weeks or months, we take it all for gran­ted.

Choosing a Marriage Partner

When you’re look­ing, here are a few tips on choos­ing a mar­riage part­ner to increase your hap­pi­ness and mar­riage longev­ity, from a sum­mary of the research by Eric Bark­er:

  • There is mutu­al ideal­isa­tion: “Spouses who ideal­ized one anoth­er were more in love with each oth­er as new­ly­weds. Lon­git­ud­in­al ana­lyses sug­ges­ted that spouses were less likely to suf­fer declines in love when they ideal­ized one anoth­er as new­ly­weds. New­ly­wed levels of ideal­iz­a­tion did not pre­dict divorce.” (Source)
  • Your part­ner has high self-esteem: On expli­cit meas­ures of pos­it­ive illu­sions, high self-esteem people con­tin­ue to com­pensate for costs. How­ever, cost-primed low self-esteem people cor­rect and over­ride their pos­it­ive impli­cit sen­ti­ments when they have the oppor­tun­ity to do so. Such cor­rec­tions put the mar­riages of low self-esteem people at risk: Fail­ing to com­pensate for costs pre­dicted declines in sat­is­fac­tion over a 1-year peri­od. (Source)
  • The male has a high socio-eco­nom­ic status: Pre­vi­ous stud­ies in developed-world pop­u­la­tions have found that fath­ers become more involved with their sons than with their daugh­ters and become more involved with their chil­dren if they are of high socioeco­nom­ic status (SES) than if they are of low SES. […] High-SES fath­ers [make] more dif­fer­ence to [their] child’s IQ by their invest­ment than low-SES fath­ers do. The effects of paternal invest­ment on the IQ and social mobil­ity of sons and daugh­ters were the same. (Source)
  • Your part­ner is con­scien­tious and slightly neur­ot­ic: Con­scien­tious­ness [demon­strates] a com­pens­at­ory effect, such that hus­bands’ con­scien­tious­ness pre­dicted wives’ health out­comes above and bey­ond wives’ own per­son­al­ity. The same pat­tern held true for wives’ con­scien­tious­ness as a pre­dict­or of hus­bands’ health out­comes. Fur­ther­more, con­scien­tious­ness and neur­oticism acted syn­er­gist­ic­ally, such that people who scored high for both traits were health­i­er than oth­ers. Finally, we found that the com­bin­a­tion of high con­scien­tious­ness and high neur­oticism was also com­pens­at­ory, such that the wives of men with this com­bin­a­tion of per­son­al­ity traits repor­ted bet­ter health than oth­er women. (Source)
  • Avoid ‘cheat­ers’ by trust­ing your instincts: The res­ults of these exper­i­ments sug­gest that cheat­ers might look dif­fer­ent from cooper­at­ors, pos­sibly due to beliefs and per­son­al­ity traits that make them less ideal exchange part­ners, and the human mind might be cap­able of pick­ing up on subtle visu­al cues that cheat­ers’ faces give off. (Source)
  • The female is the most attract­ive part­ner: Rel­at­ive dif­fer­ence between part­ners’ levels of attract­ive­ness appeared to be most import­ant in pre­dict­ing mar­it­al beha­vi­or, such that both spouses behaved more pos­it­ively in rela­tion­ships in which wives were more attract­ive than their hus­bands, but they behaved more neg­at­ively in rela­tion­ships in which hus­bands were more attract­ive than their wives. (Source)
  • The female’s par­ents are not divorced: Res­ults demon­strated that women’s, but not men’s, par­ent­al divorce was asso­ci­ated with lower rela­tion­ship com­mit­ment and lower rela­tion­ship con­fid­ence. These effects per­sisted when con­trolling for the influ­ence of recalled inter­par­ent­al con­flict and pre­marit­al rela­tion­ship adjust­ment. The cur­rent find­ings sug­gest that women whose par­ents divorced are more likely to enter mar­riage with rel­at­ively lower com­mit­ment to, and con­fid­ence in, the future of those mar­riages, poten­tially rais­ing their risk for divorce. (Source)

via @charliehoehn

The Benefits of Touching

‘Touch­i­er’ bas­ket­ball teams and play­ers (those who bump, hug and high five the most) are more suc­cess­ful than those who lim­it their non-play­ing phys­ic­al con­tact. Sim­il­arly, high­er sat­is­fac­tion has been repor­ted in romantic rela­tion­ships in which the part­ners touch more.

Just two of the find­ings from research look­ing at the import­ance of touch­ing in rela­tion­ships.

Stu­dents who received a sup­port­ive touch on the back or arm from a teach­er were nearly twice as likely to volun­teer in class as those who did not, stud­ies have found. A sym­path­et­ic touch from a doc­tor leaves people with the impres­sion that the vis­it las­ted twice as long, com­pared with estim­ates from people who were untouched. […] A mas­sage from a loved one can not only ease pain but also soothe depres­sion and strengthen a rela­tion­ship.

via @charliehoehn

De Beers and the Diamond Market

I’ve pre­vi­ously men­tioned, in passing, how the concept of the dia­mond wed­ding ring was man­u­fac­tured. I’ve now been reminded of this upon redis­cov­er­ing Edward Jay Epstein’s com­pre­hens­ive 1982 art­icle in The Atlantic chart­ing the story of how De Beers cre­ated the entire mar­ket for dia­monds through supply/demand manip­u­la­tion and PR.

De Beers proved to be the most suc­cess­ful car­tel arrange­ment in the annals of mod­ern com­merce. While oth­er com­mod­it­ies, such as gold, sil­ver, cop­per, rub­ber, and grains, fluc­tu­ated wildly in response to eco­nom­ic con­di­tions, dia­monds have con­tin­ued, with few excep­tions, to advance upward in price every year since the Depres­sion. Indeed, the car­tel seemed so superbly in con­trol of prices – and unas­sail­able – that, in the late 1970s, even spec­u­lat­ors began buy­ing dia­monds as a guard against the vagar­ies of infla­tion and reces­sion.

The art­icle has numer­ous quotes from the strategy doc­u­ments of the advert­ising agen­cies involved in the PR: N. W. Ayer and J. Wal­ter Thompson–the former classing their assign­ment as “a prob­lem in mass psy­cho­logy”.

It’s a fas­cin­at­ing phe­nomen­on set to become even more inter­est­ing now that the tech­no­logy to mass pro­duce flaw­less dia­monds in a labor­at­ory is becom­ing affordable: Wired looks at the rise of the man­u­fac­tured dia­mond.