19 November 2012

Happiness


Or, an abstract of a paper on why happiness studies are nonsense:
Being happy and finding life meaningful overlap, but there are important differences. A large survey revealed multiple differing predictors of happiness (controlling for meaning) and meaningfulness (controlling for happiness). Satisfying one’s needs and wants increased happiness but was largely irrelevant to meaningfulness. Happiness was largely present-oriented, whereas meaningfulness involves integrating past, present, and future. For example, thinking about future and past was associated with high meaningfulness but low happiness. Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker. Higher levels of worry, stress, and anxiety were linked to higher meaningfulness but lower happiness. Concerns with personal identity and expressing the self contributed to meaning but not happiness. [Emphasis added.]
This research calls to mind the words of an obscure Jewish carpenter:  It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” 

At any rate, I think this research is helpful in illustrating a key feature of those who are takers:  they appear to have rather short time horizons.  They live in the moment and make few plans for the future.  They also appear to not dwell much on the past.  Extending this further, it is likely that they are not particularly intelligent, nor are they introspective.  In essence, they have the markers of being poor/lower class.

As I’ve noted before, though, this mindset is not altogether an illogical one.  To summarize a prior argument, life is often “nasty, brutish, and short” for a good number of people.  Why they should be expected to forego pleasure now in exchange for a non-guaranteed expectation of pleasure later is a bit puzzling.  If you think life generally sucks, there’s no reason not to occasionally alleviate the boredom and pain of life by getting your pleasure early and often.

2 comments:

  1. "If you think life generally sucks, there’s no reason not to occasionally alleviate the boredom and pain of life by getting your pleasure early and often."

    Maybe. There could even be a rational case made for cigarette smoking along those lines. But, while people definitely vary greatly in degree of satisfaction deferral, I wonder how much they do in other psychic faculties, such as getting satisfaction from work or needing life goals. My sense is that those who watch tons of TV or laze around all day are fooling themselves if they think it makes them happy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Mangan- Please understand that my point is not YOLO is always and forever a rational approach to life for everyone (or even most). Rather, my point is that, YOLO is a rational approach to life for a non-zero number of people. The difficulty is knowing to whom YOLO truly applies.

    ReplyDelete