Monday, May 12, 2008

Happiness and its Causes conference in Sydney

A major Happiness and its Causes conference is happening in Sydney at the moment and has spawned interesting newspaper coverage. For example:

Happiness is not having children

THE belief that children and money will bring people happiness is one of life's abiding illusions, a Sydney conference attended by 2000 seekers of happiness was told yesterday.

The scientific evidence shows people are very bad at predicting what will make them happy, said Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of the book Stumbling On Happiness
Read more

Tim LeBon says: This research is important, but could it be that children impact more on meaning than happiness so the headline is rather misleading? Which isnt to say that people who dont have children can't lead very meaningful lives, but that for those who do have children, the benefit may be more in terms of meaning than happiness.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Stephen post ... cites a study, published by the US National Academy of Sciences, which monitored the brain activity of people asked to choose from a list of charities to which they would like to make a donation.

"This is in a laboratory environment, so they are not actually contributing, they're just thinking about contributing," he says.

The study found that when the subjects selected a charity from the list, the part of the brain dealing with joy, called the metholimbic pathway, was activated.

"So it suggests we are hardwired to feel a certain joy when we give," he says

Read more

Tim LeBon says: There is a lot of research into the benefits of altruism for the giver. However,  many people dont like the idea that we should be motivated by selfish reasons to be altruistic. Perhaps the way round this is to use this research to quiet any voice that says "why bother?" or "how about my new car?" when considering an altruistic voice - nearly everyone, I suspect, has this "selfish voice", and this research can be used to silence it.


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