Towse: views from the hill

May 26, 2009

C’mon, get happy: Experts say you can

Filed under: psychology — Towse @ 10:05 pm

Back in February, Greg Morago wrote an article for the Houston Chronicle titled, C’mon, get happy: Experts say you can.

At the time I noted in the book I keep in my back pocket, lefthand side: “hedonic adaptation”

I’d forgotten all about it until I was thumbing through the book this afternoon, looking up word references I’d forgotten, killing time.

“hedonic adaptation” — an interesting idea.

There’s a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. It basically means that people adapt and get used to things, she [Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UCRiverside] said. Let’s say you suddenly have less spending power. You feel less wealthy because you have less money in the bank. That’s going to make you unhappy. What happens is that you get used to that. Our daily life is not determined by the size of our savings account. We’ll adapt to almost everything.

In a similar way, people who have extraordinary fortune, win the lottery, get that high six-figure job, become accustomed to their new circumstances and instead of feeling euphoric about their change in lifestyle, soon discover life’s the same old same old.

Hedonic adaptation is a good thing when your circumstances take a tumble. You don’t, after all, want to be moping around forever because you had to turn in your Mercedes for a used Honda.

But, if you have had extraordinary good things happen to you, stop every once in a bit and reflect on them. Remember how lucky you are. Remember what a good life you lead. Don’t let hedonic adaptation pull you down until your extraordinary life becomes just ordinary and you get the mopes because the sparkle’s gone out of your life.

May 22, 2009

Dept. of Science: Don’t!

Filed under: psychology — Tags: , — Towse @ 1:04 am

Dept. of Science: Don’t! — Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

The 18May2009 issue of The New Yorker has a loooong article by Jonah Lehrer that begins with Walter Mischel’s 1960s research at the Bing Nursery School on the Stanford campus (AKA “the marshmallow experiment”) and other research along similar lines.

The questions researchers and others are asking are, is the ability to delay gratification a far better predictor of academic performance and adult “success” than I.Q.? Is the ability to delay gratification a genetic trait? Will brain scans show gratification delayers’ brains function differently than instant gratifiers’ brains? Can one be trained to be more future-oriented and less into instant gratification? Would this help children struggling with school?

Interesting article.

Jonah Lehrer weaves his words well. These two sentences are part of Lehrer’s description of Walter Mischel:

Mischel was born in Vienna, in 1930. His father was a modestly successful businessman with a fondness for café society and Esperanto, while his mother spent many of her days lying on the couch with an ice pack on her forehead, trying to soothe her frail nerves

How much is packed into those few words!

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