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Return to Happiness

November 1, 2012

Diener and Diener, Happiness, Chapter 4: Happiness and Social Relationships: You Can't Do Without Them

  • opening thought experiment, point.
  • Major claim: Necessity of relationship to happiness.
  • Strong correlation of social/happy, but what direction is the causation? High LS prior to marriage predicts satisfaction/longevity of marriage.
  • ESM study of introverts/extroverts in social/alone situations.
  • Inducing moods in test subjects alters perception/desirability/expectation of social situations.
  • Duchenne smile study p. 53.
  • Return to the Marriage/Happiness debate: Lucas study, note point about averages.
  • Children:
  • Conclusions:

Csiksentmihalyi, Chapter Six, Relationships and the Quality of Life

  • Concept of individual as product of social world, social world scripts transitions to adult relationship.
  • samskara - Hindu codes of conduct by age. (Does social life actually produce the individual in an important sense?)
  • "A relationship that leads to order in consciousness instead of psychic entropy has to meet at least two conditions.
  • The first is to find some compatibility between our goals and that of the other person or persons. This is always difficult in principle, given that each participant in the interaction is bound to pursue his or her self-interest." 81
  • The second condition for a successful interaction is that one be willing to invest attention in the other person's goals not an easy task either, considering that psychic energy is the most essential and scarce resource we own.
  • Claims friendships don't habituate because people are always changing. If you continue to share goals and investment of energy, the pleasure never dies (until you do).
  • Suspicious of relationship value of sex apart from psychological economy that normally goes with it. (Big judgement, p. 84)
  • Notes some changes from traditional social life: Americans tend to be friends with their parents more -- a novel and recent change. Changes in the coupling of sociability and relationship: marriages not formerly assumed to be about friendship or social intimacy.
  • Summary of good family life, read p. 88. Note the focus on the "work" families do in our lives.
  • Balance of solitude and social experience. German study by Noelle-Newman on overestimation of desirability of solitude -- (related to recurring historical motif of the "blessed isle" - Rousseau)
  • Discusses cities as places of historical challenge to our ability to manage difference and close interaction. Connects to globalism and contrasts to efforts to "restore" communities' traditional social bonds.
  • Closes with claims about the social character of creativity and knowledge-seeking.

November 6, 2012

Haidt Chapter 9: Divinity with or without God

Elevation as a vertical axis in relationship.

  • Flatland
  • Major speculative hypothesis: 183: In addition to relationship and status, we perceive/experience "divinity" as a kind of "moral purity".
  • Research on disgust. Why do we experience disgust? 186. Purity opposite impulse from disgust.
  • Psychological anthropologist Richard Shweder, U Chicago: Haidt worked with him on research in morality in India: "Shweder's research on morality in Bhubaneswar and elsewhere shows that when people think about morality, their moral concepts cluster into three groups, which he calls the ethic of autonomy, the ethic of community, and the ethic of divinity." 188 -- evidence on diff. distribution over class. Note observations on research in India. Link bt. purity/divine.
  • Cites approvingly: Eliade, The Sacred and Profane -- perceiving sacredness universal among humans. 189: Interesting examples: handedness, space in houses.

Elevation and Agape

  • Looking for a name for the emotions that we experience when we observe morally outstanding deeds. "Elevation" (ex. Greg Mortensen talk)
  • Jefferson: Experience of aesthetic value triggers physical changes in the body and recognizable feeling of elevated sentiments.
  • 196: wants to see if elevation is a kind of happiness. research with student Sara Algoe, (three conditions: doing something good for someone, saw someone tell a joke, saw extraordinary non-moral performance) results seem to separate out different responses: moral elevation vs. response to non-moral excellence like basketball player.
  • initial research documents elevation as response. Unclear how moral/non-moral triggers work.
  • Vagus Nerve theory -- operation of vagus nerve, relationship to oxytocin. Since oxcytocin causes bonding rather than action, this theory might explain the lack of evidence in an earlier study that elevation leads to action.
  • Puzzle about moral elevation and lack of action -- in two studies no sig increase in "signing up" to volunteer after elevation.
  • Lactating moms study 198 -- (answers puzzle: oxcytocin is about bonding, not acting. we've managed to make moral conduct a trigger for oxcytocin.)
  • Letter from religious person distinquishing two kinds of tears in church. compassion/celebration
  • Latter like agape : objectless love

Awe and Transcendence

  • cites Darwin / Emerson, idea of elevation from exp of nature.
  • Drugs - -entheogens. reports old experiment with mushrooms and religion.
  • Awe: "As we traced the word "awe" back in history, we discovered that it has always had a link to fear and submission in the presence of something muchgreater than the self." 202
  • Emotion of awe: "Keltner and I concluded that the emotion of awe happens when two conditions are met: a person perceives something vast (usually physically vast, but sometimes conceptually vast, such as a grand theory, or socially vast, such as great fame or power); and the vast thing cannot be accommodated by the person's existing mental structures." 203
  • Story of Arjuna Pandava from Gita. Gets a cosmic eye. Extreme case, but Haidt implies this is a model for how we describe spiritual transformation.
  • Maslow's work on peak experiences. Side note on clash about the nature of science in psychology. Maslow is considered a founder of humanistic psych.
  • Mark Leary, Curse of the Self: Self as obstacle to -- mental chatter -- self as obstacle to vertical development . Read p. 207.

November 8, 2012

Gilbert, Chapter 8: Paradise Glossed

  • Opening examples of people "re-narrating" horrible events in their lives, including wrongdoing and public humiliation. Asymmetry between people's estimates of misfortune (loss of ability) and estimates of people in those situations.
  • "If negative events don't hit us as hard as we expect them to, then why do we expect them to?"
  • Suggests that the process of creating and attending to means is crucial (154-155). We respond, in part, to our own representations of reality.
  • Importance of context, frequency, and recency in identifying information and salience. Necker cube. Kale and ice cream study, 159. thesis on 160. part of "psychological immune system" (psychological investment system).
  • We Cook the Facts (164): By selecting sampling (attending to ads for the cars we bought), by conversational practices (What's the best thing about my ability to _____? Vs. Is there anyone better than me at ____).
  • Evidence that we cook the facts comes from situations in which there are symmetrical and predictable inconsistencies in a group's interpretation (sports fans), or studies that show that we select evidence that fits our views (169).

Gilbert, Chapter 9: Immune to Reality (Openness to Investment in Reality)

  • Clever Hans
  • Confabulation: People are unaware of many influences on them, but when asked will create a story or reason that provides a plausible explanation other than the actual influence. Priming studies. Negative words flashed on screen produces more negative judgements. (note about being "strangers to ourselves" -- connects with Leary, Curse of Self)
  • Some evidence (174) to suggest that deliberate methods to induce good feeling fail.
  • thesis on 174: not only do we cook the facts, but we need to consume them in a way that doesn't reveal the fabrication or alteration.
  • Looking forward/backward: asymmetry in judgments of events when looked at prospectively and retrospectively.
  • Judge/Jury Rejection study: prospectively we aren't aware that we'll more easily write off the judge's decision than the jury's. (176) great example of confabulation too.
  • Regret: when we blame ourselves for outcomes we might have anticipated. A kind of "personal liability" emotion. Sometimes useful. Problem of the number of things you didn't do. (Possible explanation for research on p. 179 suggesting that we regret omissions more than commissions.) follow point on p. 179.
  • Psychological Immune System: triggers: very bad things more than slightly bad things. Concept of "psychological investment" in initiation rites study (181). Triggers at work in the negative feedback study (182).
  • Claims that we experience "sunk costs" in relationships. Trade offs between changing our experience and changing our view of our experience. Photo selection satisfaction study involving "escape" and "no escape" conditions. (184). (notice prospection/retrospection assymetry)
  • Speculative Theory about how we use explanations: beneficial effect of writing about trauma, study involving identified vs. unidentified admirers. Happiness buzz lasts longer on unidentified. Suggested as support for theory. Other studies suggest explanations can get in the way of emotional impact.

November 13, 2012

McMahon, Chapter 6, "Liberalism and Its Discontents"

  • Happiness in Franklin (industry, but also contentment) & the Declaration of Independence (pursuit of happiness) --
  • Interesting issue of connection of happiness and property.
  • Also, evidence of the way early US worked out relationship between religion and happiness. Jefferson's secularization of Christ. Locke's "reasonable christianity". Is "pursuit" language in American pol. tradition evidence of an echo of Christian or classical culture?
  • "Classical Republicanism" -- ties individual happiness to civic virtue. read p. 324.
  • Francis Hutcheson -- public virtue promotes private pleasure.
  • Adam Smith -- relation of capitalist motive to underlying moral sense. Influence of Scottish enlightenment on our cultural experiment in US.
  • Alexis de Toqueville's view of American culture (1805-1859) -- observations on American religion (its practicality and closeness to the project of happiness) and worries about the "dark side" of the relentless pursuit of pleasure and private good. Mill quotes de Toqueville approvingly, worrying about Am. "restlessness" amid abundance.
  • Mill's crisis of faith in happiness (1. Can individual goals sustain our interest? 2. Can happiness be promoted directly?). Insight about the "indirectness" of the pursuit of happiness ("Ask yourself whether you are happy and you cease to be so." ). Discussion of model on happiness in On Liberty. Mostly negative, but acknowledgement of need for "experiments in living".
  • Max Weber -- social theorist who analyzed the relationship between capitalism and protestant theology -- capital accumulation as a sign and partial assurance of God's blessing. Considered Franklin a case in point for extolling the virtue of denying pleasure in the name of accumulation. Many find in Weber's critique of materialism a critique of later materialist culture. Note Weber's scepticism, p. 359, about making happiness the goal of social policy.

November 15, 2012

Introductory Concepts

Large Cultural Patterns for Thinking about Death

  • One Life + eternity
  • Repeat + release
  • One Life
  • Note commonalities and differences in the problem of death depending upon the model you are working from.

Some initial distinctions and hypotheses

  • Life span differences
  • Major hypothesis: Reflecting deeply on mortality will improve the quality of your life.

To the Best of Our Knowledge: Segments on Guillermo Arriaga, Lorne Ladner, et al

  • "Mexican writer Guillermo Arriaga is best known in the States for his screenplays. He wrote "Amores Perros" and the critically acclaimed "21 Grams." From his home in Mexico City, Arriaga tells Steve Paulson where the story idea for "21 Grams" came from, and why it was so interesting to have a religious man direct a film written by an atheist that deals with topics like the meaning of life and the afterlife. "
  • back story about driving home, on his birthday, and coming across a fatal accident. (35:00) cuts to scene in movie. Sister's story about pool accident, son asks, "If I die, will you ever smile again?"
  • "Also, Lorne Ladner (44:00) is a psychologist, a practicing Buddhist and the author of The Lost Art of Compassion . He tells Jim Fleming that accepting the inevitability of one's own death leads a person to truly appreciate living while you can."
  • Meditation on one's own death, charnel grounds. Example about the guy who took down the trophies and put up pictures of his kids. sky burial.
  • Closes with famous Thoreau quote.

Momento Mori

  • Images St. Jerome --- purpose of momento mori
  • The Philosophy Bird

Montaigne, That to Study Philosophy is to Learn to Die

  • Montaigne gives us a hedonist/stoic view of death. One would think that death is a problem for a hedonist, since it appears to be the end of sensation, but Montaigne argues
  • "Cicero says—[Tusc, i. 31.]—"that to study philosophy is nothing but to prepare one's self to die." The reason of which is, because study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw from us our soul, and employ it separately < from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or, else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die."
  • M. affirms his commitment to hedonism: "Let the philosophers say what they will, the thing at which we all aim, even in virtue is pleasure."
  • "Now, of all the benefits that virtue confers upon us, the contempt of death is one of the greatest, as the means that accommodates human life with a soft and easy tranquillity, and gives us a pure and pleasant taste of living, without which all other pleasure would be extinct."
  • Makes fun of people (folk) who are bothered by the mention of death.
  • We all think we have more time. Cognitive bias. (mentions, p. 3, weird, untimely deaths)In light of this, how can we avoid thinking about death? -M You could try not thinking about it, but it will surface if you don't deal with it.
  • ["Let him hide beneath iron or brass in his fear, death will pull his head out of his armour. "—Propertious Hi. 18]
  • "Where death waits for us is uncertain; let us look for him everywhere. The premeditation of death is the premeditation of liberty; he who has learned to die has unlearned to serve. There is nothing evil in life for him who rightly comprehends that the privation of life is no evil: to know, how to die delivers us from all subjection and constraint."
  • "I am at all hours as well prepared as I am ever like to be, and death, whenever he shall come, can bring nothing along with him I did not expect long before. We should always, as near as we can, be booted and spurred, and ready to go, and, above all things, take care, at that time, to have no business with any one but one's self"
  • We have a bias to ignoring our own deterioration. "Let us but observe in the ordinary changes and declinations we daily suffer, how nature deprives us of the light and. sense of our bodily decay. What remains to an old man of the vigour of his youth and better days? ["Alas, to old men what portion of life remains!"—Maximian, vel Pseudo-Gallus, i. 16f -- Note Hecht's point about how we insulate ourselves from death, less common experience, also, the beauty culture.
  • Religion is founded on the contempt of death.
  • Cognitive therapy: "What a ridiculous thing it is to trouble ourselves about taking the only step that is to deliver us from all trouble! As our birth brought us the birth of all things, so in 1 hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago. Death is the beginning of another life. "
  • "Why not depart from life as a sated guest from a feast? "Lucretius, Hi. 95

Tibetan Book of the Dead

Primary understanding of death: great opportunity for learning. Note that it doesn't necessarily matter whether there's an aftelife to the question of learning possibility. Aware of the limits teaches.

Six Bardos:

  1. the chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death"
  2. the chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality"
  3. the sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth".
  4. the bardo of ordinary waking consciousness
  5. dhyana, meditation
  6. dream state

Discuss practice associated with the Great Liberation by Hearing

November 27, 2012

Bok, Chapter 3, “Should Policy-Makers Use Happiness Research?”

  • Neutrality
  • Liberty a contender
  • Importance of “Private Ordering”
  • Could Gov’t do it?
  • Brave New World
  • Melancholy Genius Theories
  • Can someone’s happiness level change? P. 52-53
  • Ethical issue: Shouldn’t discount happiness of poor because they are used to it.
  • Conclusion: 57
Happiness research won’t reduce policy to science, but might help us make tradeoffs that raise general well-being.

Bok, Chapter 4, “Growth”

  • background on growth of growth as an issue
  • Is No Growth an option?
  • Growth is good theories:
  • builds social bond
  • funds good things
  • halting growth could be a disaster
  • Proposal to reduce work week. Use of new leisure.

November 29, 2012

Carol Graham, "Happiness in Africa" 66-73

  • Major Results on optimism among the poorest / among African poor.
  • Explanations for results: methodological problem (note issues about measuring optimism from existing questions)
  • Possible significance of findings, if validated in the future: we might be tracing a dynamic in our cultural psychology in which happiness and optimism start to operate differently, particularly at low levels of material well being.

Carol Graham, Chapters 7 and 8, "Happiness Around the World"

  • Looks at cultural-level phenomena like "Social Capital," (social trust, cultural institutional relationships (inc. religion), friendships and relationships), in particular how these are valued differently in different cultures. ex. p. 191-2.
  • Political variables: freedom, participation in democracy, favorable attitudes about market (note reverse causation), stable democracy.
  • "virtuous circles" -- 199

December 4, 2012

  • "Top Ten Happiness Ideas from Fall 2012," [Prezi], and [MP3]. Load the prezi and start the mp3.

December 6, 2012