Wednesday, January 19, 2011

297: Happiness and the Brain

Have you ever googled on for instance "Happiness"? You get 64.000.000 hits in 0.13 seconds! Or a google search on the literal statement "How to feel happy". It gives you 493.000 hits in 0.15 seconds.

You even will find the World Database of Happiness, directed by the Dutchman Ruut Veenhoven of the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Let me quote the first lines of its philosophy:

- quote:
Happiness is a highly valued matter. Most people agree that it is better to enjoy life than to suffer, and endorse public policies that aim at creating greater happiness for a greater number of people. Though not everybody accepts the utilitarian axiom that happiness is ultimately the only value, the desirability of happiness as such is almost undisputed.
- end quote

The MacMillan Encyclopedia of Philosophy tells us:
- quote
As an object of philosophical inquiry, the concept of happiness is as old as philosophy itself. It was central to the ethical thought of the Greeks, most famously Aristotle, and was restored to this position of prominence by the nineteenth-century utilitarians.
- end quote

For a long time to find happiness we focused on studying our physical and mental diseases and tried to find a cure for them. And as you saw….the direct study of happiness itself was more the playground of the philosophers.

This has changed in the passed 20 years or so. Happiness has become a real subject of scientific investigation and research. As I said, we already have a World Database of Happiness and associated with it we have the "Journal of Happiness Studies" also published by a Dutch Academic publisher.

The Journal was probably first published in 1996, but look at the graphics behind me. That index started counting in 2005, but that doesn't matter. What you see is absolutely clear: Happiness is a HOT issue in the sciences.

- quote
The Journal of Happiness Studies is a peer reviewed scientific journal devoted to subjective well-being. It covers both cognitive evaluations of life, and affective enjoyment of life. Next to contributions on appraisal of life-as-a-whole, the journal accepts contributions on life domains and life-aspects.
- end quote

Again a layer is peeled of from the realm of philosophy. Happiness has become measurable, quantifiable. The economists and sociologists take care of the abstract perspective, for instance the collective happiness of a whole country.

The psychologists and neuroscientists take care of the individual and how he experiences happiness. And lots of test persons are happy to fill out questionaries or be put in a fMRI - scanner.

Why this change in focus? Why has happiness become a legitimate object of scientific attention? And what do we mean by happiness?From the quotes you already get an impression of what is meant by happiness today.

It all began with the Easterlin Paradox. The Easterlin Paradox is a key concept in happiness economics. It is named for economist and USC Professor Richard Easterlin who discussed the factors contributing to happiness in the 1974 paper "Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence."

Although income per person rose steadily in the United States between 1946 and 1970, average reported happiness showed no long-term trend and declined between 1960 and 1970.

The American dream shattered…… more money doesn't make you happier. Once we have a reasonable income it seems that extra money does not make a difference with respect to our basic feeling of happiness or wellbeing.

This caused the avalanche of studies on happiness. Besides that it is a prosperity phenomenon, says Ruut Veenhoven, the Western World has solved so many of its problems that it is hard to figure out how we can improve life further.

One thing is clear, studies by Ruut Veenhoven and Michael Hagerty (2003) and economists Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, both of the University of Pennsylvania (2008) have shown that the Eastelin paradox in fact does not exists, that there is no paradox and countries did indeed get happier with increasing income.

Thus, a bonus of 1.000.000 Linden dollars would definitely increase my happiness. Next lecture we'll see how individual happiness works .

The Discussion

[13:21] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:21] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh that would be nice
[13:21] Bejiita Imako: hahaha
[13:22] herman Bergson: The floor is yours :-)
[13:22] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i am sure that happiness also resides in some special part of the brain
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:22] BALDUR Joubert: hm.. we have about 6 billions of individuals.. we'll never finish our studies of happines lol
[13:22] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): nope
[13:23] herman Bergson: that is what I will reveal in the next lecture Gemma ^_^...I'll show you the location :-)
[13:23] Anja Tigerfish: ㋡
[13:23] herman Bergson: It is indeed an interesting concept....
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:24] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): i have already seen it somewhere else
[13:24] herman Bergson: is it a feeling that can grow indefinitely.....and to what heights then?
[13:24] herman Bergson: or is it a constant
[13:24] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the decline of happiness cited in the 60's is interesting, I wonder how war and the draft played a part in that
[13:24] herman Bergson: yes indeed Aristotle...
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: how about reseaching on the question of happiness in a evolutionary /survival context first
[13:25] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): and overall, how peace and war weight on happiness
[13:25] herman Bergson: these were American researchers…I mean on an American population
[13:25] BALDUR Joubert: basics
[13:25] herman Bergson: this World Database of Happiness is not a joke..
[13:25] herman Bergson: real scientific source...
[13:26] herman Bergson: Maybe you'll find an answer there Aristotle
[13:26] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): of course we American like to accept all this war is a UN brotherhood and try to make everyone miserable
[13:27] BALDUR Joubert: smile..collecting stamps does not tell you much about the counties that printed them..i am very doubtful about any conclusions made on the subject
[13:27] herman Bergson: that is the contrary of happiness....
[13:28] herman Bergson: a lot of countries do research on the wellbeing of their inhabitants nowadays Baldur
[13:28] herman Bergson: Oh read my words.....
[13:28] BALDUR Joubert: many nations today in un..and how many will you give the credit
[13:29] herman Bergson: I already jumped to the meaning "wellbeing" for happiness
[13:29] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): wellbeing, and war does create jobs, folks should be happy then
[13:29] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:30] Anja Tigerfish: brrrrr
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: smile..even the US..CAN WE GOVE THEM CREDIT for actiong for the wellbeing...happiness of their people? see the resistance in the senate again
[13:30] herman Bergson: In fact that happened before World War II Aristotle...
[13:30] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the cold war brought us extreme happiness in the 50s
[13:30] BALDUR Joubert: unthinkable in europe
[13:30] herman Bergson: The preparations for war were a push for the economy and employment
[13:31] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): and the aftermath of war world 2 GI bill
[13:31] BALDUR Joubert: ari..wars like that profit the economy..and as there are less unemployed cause a couple ot millions are dead....
[13:31] herman Bergson: We could do a small classroom test....
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ahha
[13:32] herman Bergson: is everybody HAPPY ?????
[13:32] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): how much do you think the government is responsible for wellbeing and happiness?
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): yep
[13:32] Anja Tigerfish: *:-.,_,.-:*'``'*NOOOOOO!!!!*:-.,_,.-:*'``'*
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: I am ㋡
[13:32] herman Bergson: oops
[13:32] herman Bergson: only the responses???
[13:32] BALDUR Joubert: lol..what you think.. a many of us hermans thinks happy ..
[13:32] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): hmmm
[13:33] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I am determined to be happy regardless of the government
[13:33] herman Bergson: what do you mean Baldur ?
[13:33] herman Bergson: good Aristotle
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: you asked if everyone is happy..
[13:33] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): folks I love make me happy
[13:33] BALDUR Joubert: depends of what we think of..
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Baldur
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: in class being here i say yes.
[13:34] herman Bergson: You didn't answer
[13:34] herman Bergson: Great... :-)
[13:34] BALDUR Joubert: if i think of the subject..and the explanations for humans.. i cray out loud no
[13:34] herman Bergson: Oh..I should answer the question too of course...
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: my friends make me happy ㋡
[13:34] herman Bergson: My anser is a definite YES
[13:34] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): that is good
[13:34] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I hope that happiness adheres to my individualist philosophy, we are responsible
[13:35] herman Bergson: Next lecture you will know more Aristotle ^_^
[13:35] BALDUR Joubert: which means i will ignore all around me..cause happiness is a individual feeling
[13:35] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): as always, Herman :)
[13:35] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I do ignore most folks Baldur
[13:36] herman Bergson: You dont need to ignore others to be happy yourself Baldur
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): goodness no
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: sure..i f beertje asked me to go dance with her after class ..i wpould be happy..
[13:36] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I concentrate on the worthy
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): come to wildsky
[13:36] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:36] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): qwarkk wil be playing
[13:36] herman Bergson: I can imagine....
[13:36] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): LOL
[13:36] herman Bergson: I have the same idea Baldur ^_^
[13:36] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. but not thinking of all the others who would have wanted to dance qwith her lol
[13:37] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): well, that makes me smile to ponder it, but you are out of luck I would think Baldur
[13:37] herman Bergson: What did I say ...:-)
[13:37] BALDUR Joubert: who are unhappy lol
[13:37] herman Bergson: Well...let me make you all happy and dismiss class.....
[13:37] herman Bergson: who knows with whom Beertje will be dancing ^_^
[13:37] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I read teh paper each moring and have spells of unhappness
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): no clue
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): oh yes ari
[13:38] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well some anger too
[13:38] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. so finally the beatles were not that wrong:)
[13:38] herman Bergson: Papers arent meant to make you happy Aristotle...I am sorry:-)
[13:38] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): but then I see the those folk sI turly care about and care about me and the happiness returns
[13:39] herman Bergson: smiles...
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle...
[13:39] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): that is what makes life delicious
[13:39] herman Bergson: We ignore what is in those newspaper and only read Gemmas articles
[13:39] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): LOL we should
[13:39] BALDUR Joubert: smile..evdrt thought why films without ha happy enbding make less on the box office then those even stupid that have?
[13:39] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ah
[13:40] herman Bergson: Is that so Baldur?
[13:40] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): well depends on the artistic values
[13:40] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): yes Baldur, I am sure but Polyanna is a fraud....without sadness there would be n value to happiness
[13:41] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): no*
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: its so..many films had tochange their endingn becasue the producers didn'tagrre with a sad ending
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ LOL ♥
[13:41] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): wel we wll find out about that thursday
[13:41] herman Bergson: The Greek invented the Tragedy....
[13:41] BALDUR Joubert: smile. i'm a cinephil
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes
[13:41] Anja Tigerfish: cool
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): see you thursday
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well The 300......that move about the Spartans against Xerxes...
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: aaa cu then
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): ♥ Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!! ♥
[13:42] Gemma Allen (gemma.cleanslate): Bye, Bye ㋡
[13:42] herman Bergson: atthe end all 300 died....
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: ;(
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:42] Anja Tigerfish: •´¨*•.¸.♥ Bye Bye ♥.¸.•*¨`•
[13:42] herman Bergson: Yes a great movie ^_^
[13:42] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): who wants to watch such a movie to begin with?
[13:42] BALDUR Joubert: lol.. its based on a comic strip
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: and its a comic strip even as a movie..
[13:43] herman Bergson: I did Aristotle....:-)
[13:43] Qwark Allen: see you later
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): one should enlist inthe miltary if they wantto see such horrifice things
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ¸¸.☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`☆ H E R MA N ☆´ ¯¨☆.¸¸`☆** **☆´ ¸¸.☆¨¯`
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ty
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: cu soon
[13:43] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark!
[13:43] Qwark Allen: was interesting as allways
[13:43] BALDUR Joubert: by q
[13:43] herman Bergson: Bye Bejiita
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: ㋡
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): bey Qwark
[13:43] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): Vietnam was all it took for me
[13:44] herman Bergson: I understand..
[13:44] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): I suppose I am predudiced LOL
[13:44] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): prejudiced*
[13:44] BALDUR Joubert: yyou werenpt happy when they swen t into savethe poor viets from communism ari`?
[13:44] herman Bergson: That's ok....we all are
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: look at he figures.. how many approvedot the firsst irak wae`?
[13:45] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): teh military-industrial complex has been rolling since
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: wR?
[13:45] BALDUR Joubert: smile as tinme goes bye..
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: peoplethink of the casualties money spent..
[13:46] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the timeframe of the happiness of folks is intrigueing in regards to war and peace
[13:46] herman Bergson: yes inded Aristotle....
[13:46] BALDUR Joubert: ari..look at documentariesof the forst peopleserehappy to go to war. of for youthe civilwar..
[13:46] herman Bergson: It is very well possible that you find info on that in th WOld Database
[13:47] herman Bergson: let me find the URL
[13:47] herman Bergson:
[13:47] BALDUR Joubert: so many who wanted to participate afraid the war would be over beforethey can be in action..
[13:47] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): the blending of and overlap between happiness and unhappiness as war ebbs and flows
[13:48] herman Bergson: The Database collects all scientific studies on happiness
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: they were happy to be enrolled..
[13:48] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): cool, thanks Herman
[13:48] Anja Tigerfish: *^*^*^*^* Anja thinks that's *^*^*^*^*
[13:48] Anja Tigerfish: SuperCrazyFunnyFantasticBombasticCooool
[13:48] Anja Tigerfish: *^*^*^*^*^* Ooww laaaaa *^*^*^*^*^*
[13:48] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): :)
[13:48] BALDUR Joubert: so happiness.. iof one doesn't try to understand the basic instincts..
[13:49] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): your enthusiasm is nice to see Anja
[13:49] Anja Tigerfish: :))
[13:49] Anja Tigerfish: ㋡
[13:49] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): well taht is another thing Baldur.....
[13:49] BALDUR Joubert: canot beundersstood bys looking at our society not even the precedent ones..
[13:49] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): is satisfiying the primal urges being happy?
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. are there primal urges which could produce the feeling of hapiness..
[13:50] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): as always, this class makes me think
[13:50] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): which is a grand thing
[13:50] herman Bergson: reveal some details....
[13:50] BALDUR Joubert: if so..which.. and why.
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: and are they genetically imposed..or culturaélly?
[13:51] herman Bergson: happiness is in our brain.....and it can be influenced...
[13:51] BALDUR Joubert: socially?
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:51] herman Bergson: pretty interesting research results
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): well, Thursday then :)
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Aristotle...same time same place :-)
[13:52] BALDUR Joubert: smile.. if it can be influences it proofs that its cultural not genetic
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): good byt every one, thanks again Herman
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): smiling
[13:52] Aristotle von Doobie (aristotlevon.doobie): bye
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: bye Ari
[13:52] Anja Tigerfish: •´¨*•.¸.♥ Bye Bye ♥.¸.•*¨`•
[13:52] herman Bergson: right Baldur....30% genetic only
[13:53] Anja Tigerfish: oooooo
[13:53] BALDUR Joubert: smile..ok.. theree we have a basis.. to explore:)
[13:53] Anja Tigerfish: ....and 70
[13:53] Paula Dix: hi
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: having a draqgomnin your you think its genetic ?
[13:54] herman Bergson: yes Anja...influenced by nurture and environment and what you do yourself
[13:54] herman Bergson: Hi Paula^_^
[13:54] BALDUR Joubert: PAULA ..)
[13:54] Anja Tigerfish: Greetings Paula
[13:54] Paula Dix: too late... :(((
[13:54] herman Bergson: unfortunately ..yes
[13:55] Paula Dix: lol
[13:55] Paula Dix: but i have to work :)))
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: even if herman grows his tulips outside:)
[13:55] BALDUR Joubert: tulips
[13:55] Paula Dix: its almost 8pm for me now, work went a bit late than the usual 6pm
[13:56] Paula Dix: what you grow tulips outside in winter?
[13:56] herman Bergson: It is spring for me Paula....
[13:56] BALDUR Joubert: smile paula..what a pity..cause you would have learned tonight that happiness is leaving at 6 and be here for class in time:)
[13:57] Paula Dix: lol
[13:57] Paula Dix: i will warn my boss of that
[13:57] BALDUR Joubert: grin right herman?
[13:57] herman Bergson: true...
[13:58] Paula Dix: guys check this link:
[13:58] herman Bergson: this class was about missed happiness by an hour Paula
[13:58] Paula Dix: and that makes me sad
[13:58] BALDUR Joubert: come on.. we are stiil her to cheer yuo up:)
[13:58] Paula Dix: :)))
[13:58] BALDUR Joubert: that should make you happy:)
[13:58] Paula Dix: I will have to be happy reading the site later
[13:58] Bejiita Imao: ㋡
[13:59] Paula Dix: btw, finished october already :))
[13:59] Bejiita Imao: ok time to move on
[13:59] Bejiita Imao: cu
[13:59] Paula Dix: bye
[13:59] BALDUR Joubert: bej..we must talk one day .about cern..
[14:00] BALDUR Joubert: thinking that you are there..
[14:00] Paula Dix: what about cern? exploded or they found the god particle?
[14:00] herman Bergson: watching......
[14:00] BALDUR Joubert: smile..
[14:00] Paula Dix: amazing video
[14:01] BALDUR Joubert: those brazilians.. nothing goes without god--
[14:02] Paula Dix: lol
[14:02] Paula Dix: normaly a bunch of them, its scary
[14:02] BALDUR Joubert: but i noticed thaT THE ruffle in the slums and even the mudslides were no longer connected to a divine
[14:02] Paula Dix: oh, this time it also got rich people
[14:03] BALDUR Joubert: jusdt human ..and society..
[14:03] Paula Dix: high level hotels on the mountains, big mansions
[14:03] herman Bergson: fascinating.....
[14:03] BALDUR Joubert: well compared to queensland.. its just a small case event.
[14:04] Paula Dix: amazing, isn't? I was surprised with africa, with what people tell about i was expecting them to stay there on the corner
[14:04] Paula Dix: lol Baldur, that was the worst that ever happened in brazil
[14:05] BALDUR Joubert: though victims were ore important..but ..why shpould we fee unhappy cause there are 600 dead.. 53 in cairo.. 150 in ceylon..and so in
[14:05] Paula Dix: yes, lots of people die all the time
[14:06] Paula Dix: a friend said luckily or we would have no space pretty soon :))
[14:06] BALDUR Joubert: and most because ot he stupidity ofmen..not nature
[14:06] Paula Dix: yes, true
[14:06] herman Bergson: well my dear friend..I got to go :-)
[14:07] Paula Dix: ok, i will play with blender :)))
[14:07] herman Bergson: Bye..:-)
[14:07] Paula Dix: bye!
[14:07] Paula Dix: bye Baldur!

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