Friday, March 19, 2010

Eavesdropping on Happiness

Ignorance is not bliss.  This finding alone makes me happier.  Add in that talking also adds to well-being, and I'm buoyant.  In Eavesdropping on Happiness, an article published in Psychological Science, the authors put microphones on 79 undergraduates and listened to their conversations over four days, analyzed them based on a coding system, then had the subjects complete a detailed Satisfaction With Life survey.  Those who had regular, serious conversations with others (not about the weather, for example, but about worries about their kids or their passion for stamp-collecting) were qualitatively happier people.

Humans, introvert or extrovert, do better when they connect with others in a meaningful manner on a regular basis.  I once read about a woman who asked people she met at dinner parties to tell her about the last time they fell in love.  She said it was the best way to learn a lot about people quickly. 

The authors conclude:  "Together, the present findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary, and conversationally deep rather than superficial."  They concede that happy people may naturally attract others to "deep social encounters" and thus be happier.  But it could also be that deep conversational connection does in fact make us feel less alone in this big world. 

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