Positive psychology

Learned by Yale University course , this course was just phenomenal. Professor Laurie has explained this course so beautifully, The Happiness Lab is a podcast done by her.

A quick statistic, we prescribe antidepressants at 400 times the rate that we did 20 years ago, 400 times the rate than 20 years ago.

Dr. Laurie Santos hosted a Facebook Live Q&A to help us all find ways to cope and process. The video covers the following topics:

  1. Reducing tension in a relationship while sheltering in place (1:11)
  2. Consuming news without increasing anxiety (3:24)
  3. Supporting healthcare workers and helping them prioritize self-care (5:19)
  4. Remaining positive when living alone (8:51)
  5. Staying focused and productive at work (10:36)
  6. Finding your next career or job if you’ve been laid off (12:47)
  7. Helping children who are struggling without their usual routine or friends (15:00)
  8. Creating positive experiences while in lock-down (18:26)
  9. Sleeping better, despite increased anxiety and stress (20:48)
  10. Coping if loved ones test positive for COVID-19 (23:57)
  11. Spreading kindness or making social connections while isolated (26:32)

G.i Joe fallacy:

“Knowing is half the battle”, we all have heard this statement before. But the truth is Merely knowing something is not enough to put into practice.

For example: you know sleeping late is not good for your health, yet you still sleep late.

Two real life examples are

1.Muller-Lyer Illusion

2.Shepard’s Tables Illusion

Both the tables are of equal length and breadth

A video to understand positive psychology, https://www.ted.com/talks/martin_seligman_on_the_state_of_psychology

Things we think will make us happy*

1. A good job, Now Gilbert et al. conducted an experiment to see job offer acceptance and drop.Gilbert et al. (1998). Immune neglect: A source of durability bias in effective forecasting.

2. A lot of money for recent grads, http://What recent grads care the most about.

A research done by Kahneman & Deaton (2010) displayed that after $75000/year our emotional well being does not significantly increase with our salary, but we still think that our emotional well being value will be increasing after $75000/year. High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being.

3. Awesome stuff: like shopping clothes or drinks or materialist objects. Nickerson et al. (2003) wrote a research paper on, Zeroing on the Dark Side of the American Dream: A Closer Look at the Negative Consequences of the Goal for Financial Success.

3.1.True love: Well research shows, that we adapt to marriage after a few years and our gradual increase in happiness returns to baseline. Lucas et al. (2003), Reexamining Adaptation and the Set Point Model of Happiness: Reactions to Changes in Marital Status.

3.2. Perfect Body:  weight loss may not make you feel any happier, Jackson et al. (2014), Psychological changes following weight loss in overweight and obese adults: A prospective cohort study.

3.3. Good grades :perfect grades will make you happier, not as much as we think.

Why aren’t these making people happy ?

Research done by Lyubomirsky (2007) in (The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want)

But most of the goals we think are going to make us happy, don’t actually make us happy. So we have to kind of pick the right goals,

When your mind delivers to you an intuition like, I’m going to feel really sad if I get a bad grade, that that intuition is informatively correct. But the fact is, that the mind all the time is delivering to us these intuitions about what’s going to make us happy, what’s correct, what line is longer, what table is longer

Annoying Features of the Brain:

Miswanting. The definition of this is just, this act of being mistaken about what and how much you’re going to like these things in the future. This is the problem, is that our brains deliver to us this idea that we want certain things, but we are wrong about it. We are constantly miswanting,

1 st feature :

Our minds’ strongest intuitions are often not the ones we expect. We sometimes get things totally wrong. Our intuitions are just false. And we can see that in the context of vision, vision somehow gives us a nice set of intuitions into our biases. As we saw in the above illusions.

Gilbert & Wilson (2000). ”Miswanting: Some problems in the forecasting of future effective states.

2 ND feature :

We just don’t think in terms of the true thing that’s out there. Instead, we think in these very relative terms. And we’re constantly judging relative to what I’m going to call a reference point.

Ebbinghaus illusion

So now we can take reference point in two ways, either take reference of our past self or take reference of another human being.

  1. Clark and Oswald (1996). Satisfaction and comparison income.This paper tells us reference points mess up good salaries – if your coworkers make more money than you do, then you will be less satisfied with your job
  2. Medvec et al. (1995). When less is more: Counterfactual thinking and satisfaction among Olympic medalists..This paper tells us due to the power of salient reference points, bronze winners tend to be happier than silver medal winners
  3. Kuhn et al. (2011). The effects of lottery prizes on winners and their neighbors: Evidence from the Dutch Postcode Lottery. This paper tells us social comparisons influence our spending – people that live next door to lottery winners are more likely to buy a new car
  4. Burleigh and Meegan (2013). Keeping Up with the Joneses affects perceptions of distributive justice. This paper tells us social comparisons mess up good grades – students would rather miss out on a potential grade increase just so that others in the class don’t get an increase, too
  5. Vogel et al. (2014). Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem. This paper tells us use of social media makes us compare ourselves to others which lowers our self-esteem – even a manipulated facebook feed featuring people that are worse off than we are does not lead to much higher self-esteem ratings

Now our mind does not refer to logical reference point, but it tends to refer to an exceptional reference point, which is totally not feasible.

3 Rd feature:

That’s the fact that our minds are built to get used to stuff. We just have these minds that adapt over time and habituate. Again, since we think in terms of vision, we can see this really well in a situation of Perceptual Adaptation.

  1. Di Tella et al. (2010). Happiness adaptation to income and to status in an individual panel. This paper tells us that we adapt to earning more money (although we don’t adapt to increases in social status as quickly)

This phenomena of Hedonic Adaptation. This is this process of becoming accustomed to both positive stuff and negative stuff, such that the effects you get from that emotionally don’t work as well over time. This is the thing that makes a lot of the awesome stuff we see not as awesome.

Psychologist, Dan Gilbert, with his fantastic book called Stumbling Into Happiness, where he notes that wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen. But they’re wonderful and this wanes with repetition. But the subsequent moments, you just get used to them.

Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk – The surprising science of happiness

4 Th feature:

The impact bias, and this is the idea that we tend to overestimate the emotional impact of things in two ways, both in terms of their intensity and in terms of their duration. We think they’re going to be better than they’re going to be at the moment we get it and we think that it’s going to last longer than it really does.

We predict it’s going to be awesome. It’s not as awesome as we expect, but we have way more of an impact bias for negative things.But you’re really under predicting how happy you’re going to be when you’re denied.

Levine et al. (2012). Accuracy and artifact: Reexamining the intensity bias in effective forecasting. This paper tells us we overestimate our emotions and getting bad grades won’t make us feel as bad as we think they will – we adapt to bad events, too

Maybe if we had more experience with horrible things happening to us, we would be like, “You know, horrible things happen to me. They ain’t so bad.” Blooper, We don’t get better at impact bias as we get more experience with it.

Dan Gilbert and colleagues who came up with these like fantastic psychological biases that he talks about and these are pretty profound and they’re ones that you can actually work on to get rid of these biases.

1.The first of these is what he calls focalism. And this is the idea that we think about our predictions about an event. We tend to think about just one thing about those events, forgetting everything else that could happen in our lives right. When you focus on the one thing, you miss-predict. So when you’re predicting about your own happiness levels, like if you get a job or you do something, think not just about that moment but think about the stuff surrounding it.

2.We’re actually a lot more resilient than we like to think sometimes. So the fact of the matter is we actually don’t like when sucky things happen to us. Our minds don’t like to feel really awful and we have lots of mechanisms for feeling better when we feel really awful. And so this is the bias I worry about most because it means you’re miss-predicting your own potential in these ways.

  1. Ayton et al. (2007). Effective forecasting: Why can’t people predict their emotions?. This paper tells us effective forecasts (predicting our emotional response given a certain outcome) are too extreme and greater previous experience of an emotional event does not lead to any greater accuracy of the predictions – highlighted in drivers test candidate
  2. Eastwick et al. (2008). Miss-predicting distress following romantic breakup: Revealing the time course of the effective forecasting error. This paper tells us we miss-predict how we will feel if we break up with a significant other – we think we will feel much worse than we actually do

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