Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Happiness


Over 500 million people interact daily with Facebook. Yet, whether Facebook use influences subjective well-being over time is unknown. We addressed this issue using experience-sampling, the most reliable method for measuring in-vivo behavior and psychological experience. We text-messaged people five times per day for two-weeks to examine how Facebook use influences the two components of subjective well-being: how people feel moment-to-moment and how satisfied they are with their lives. Our results indicate that Facebook use predicts negative shifts on both of these variables over time. The more people used Facebook at one time point, the worse they felt the next time we text-messaged them; the more they used Facebook over two-weeks, the more their life satisfaction levels declined over time. Interacting with other people “directly” did not predict these negative outcomes. They were also not moderated by the size of people’s Facebook networks, their perceived supportiveness, motivation for using Facebook, gender, loneliness, self-esteem, or depression. On the surface, Facebook provides an invaluable resource for fulfilling the basic human need for social connection. Rather than enhancing well-being, however, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.

Concepts: Criticism of Facebook, Subjective life satisfaction, Need, The Next Time, Happiness, Fundamental human needs, Motivation, Psychology


Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments, with people transferring positive and negative emotions to others. Data from a large real-world social network, collected over a 20-y period suggests that longer-lasting moods (e.g., depression, happiness) can be transferred through networks [Fowler JH, Christakis NA (2008) BMJ 337:a2338], although the results are controversial. In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks. This work also suggests that, in contrast to prevailing assumptions, in-person interaction and nonverbal cues are not strictly necessary for emotional contagion, and that the observation of others' positive experiences constitutes a positive experience for people.

Concepts: Happiness, Empathy, Empiricism, Psychology, Social network, Emotion, Sociology, Experiment


There is preliminary evidence for the efficacy of positive psychology interventions for pain management. The current study examined the effects of an internet-based positive psychology self-help program for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain and compared it with an internet-based cognitive behavioural program.

Concepts: The Current, Positive psychology, Behaviorism, Effectiveness, Happiness, Pain, Psychology, Randomized controlled trial


In nationally representative yearly surveys of United States 8th, 10th, and 12th graders 1991-2016 (N = 1.1 million), psychological well-being (measured by self-esteem, life satisfaction, and happiness) suddenly decreased after 2012. Adolescents who spent more time on electronic communication and screens (e.g., social media, the Internet, texting, gaming) and less time on nonscreen activities (e.g., in-person social interaction, sports/exercise, homework, attending religious services) had lower psychological well-being. Adolescents spending a small amount of time on electronic communication were the happiest. Psychological well-being was lower in years when adolescents spent more time on screens and higher in years when they spent more time on nonscreen activities, with changes in activities generally preceding declines in well-being. Cyclical economic indicators such as unemployment were not significantly correlated with well-being, suggesting that the Great Recession was not the cause of the decrease in psychological well-being, which may instead be at least partially due to the rapid adoption of smartphones and the subsequent shift in adolescents' time use. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Unemployment, Happiness, BlackBerry, Time, Late-2000s recession, Sociology, Business cycle, Great Depression


The worldwide fascination of da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been dedicated to the emotional ambiguity of her face expression. In the present study we manipulated Mona Lisa’s mouth curvature as one potential source of ambiguity and studied how a range of happier and sadder face variants influences perception. In two experimental conditions we presented different stimulus ranges with different step sizes between stimuli along the happy-sad axis of emotional face expressions. Stimuli were presented in random order and participants indicated the perceived emotional face expression (first task) and the confidence of their response (second task). The probability of responding ‘happy’ to the original Mona Lisa was close to 100%. Furthermore, in both conditions the perceived happiness of Mona Lisa variants described sigmoidal functions of the mouth curvature. Participants' confidence was weakest around the sigmoidal inflection points. Remarkably, the sigmoidal functions, as well as confidence values and reaction times, differed significantly between experimental conditions. Finally, participants responded generally faster to happy than to sad faces. Overall, the original Mona Lisa seems to be less ambiguous than expected. However, perception of and reaction to the emotional face content is relative and strongly depends on the used stimulus range.

Concepts: Louvre, Happiness, Florence, Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa


Life satisfaction refers to a somewhat stable cognitive assessment of one’s own life. Life satisfaction is an important component of subjective well being, the scientific term for happiness. The other component is affect: the balance between the presence of positive and negative emotions in daily life. While affect has been studied using social media datasets (particularly from Twitter), life satisfaction has received little to no attention. Here, we examine trends in posts about life satisfaction from a two-year sample of Twitter data. We apply a surveillance methodology to extract expressions of both satisfaction and dissatisfaction with life. A noteworthy result is that consistent with their definitions trends in life satisfaction posts are immune to external events (political, seasonal etc.) unlike affect trends reported by previous researchers. Comparing users we find differences between satisfied and dissatisfied users in several linguistic, psychosocial and other features. For example the latter post more tweets expressing anger, anxiety, depression, sadness and on death. We also study users who change their status over time from satisfied with life to dissatisfied or vice versa. Noteworthy is that the psychosocial tweet features of users who change from satisfied to dissatisfied are quite different from those who stay satisfied over time. Overall, the observations we make are consistent with intuition and consistent with observations in the social science research. This research contributes to the study of the subjective well being of individuals through social media.

Concepts: Science, Scientific method, Twitter, Happiness, Personal life, Sociology, Emotions, Psychology


The subjective well-being or happiness of individuals is an important metric for societies. Although happiness is influenced by life circumstances and population demographics such as wealth, we know little about how the cumulative influence of daily life events are aggregated into subjective feelings. Using computational modeling, we show that emotional reactivity in the form of momentary happiness in response to outcomes of a probabilistic reward task is explained not by current task earnings, but by the combined influence of recent reward expectations and prediction errors arising from those expectations. The robustness of this account was evident in a large-scale replication involving 18,420 participants. Using functional MRI, we show that the very same influences account for task-dependent striatal activity in a manner akin to the influences underpinning changes in happiness.

Concepts: Model, Personal life, Expected value, Cognitive science, Happiness, Psychology, Neuroscience, Scientific method


Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having). Although most research comparing these two types of purchases has focused on their downstream hedonic consequences, the present research investigated hedonic differences that occur before consumption. We argue that waiting for experiences tends to be more positive than waiting for possessions. Four studies demonstrate that people derive more happiness from the anticipation of experiential purchases and that waiting for an experience tends to be more pleasurable and exciting than waiting to receive a material good. We found these effects in studies using questionnaires involving a variety of actual planned purchases, in a large-scale experience-sampling study, and in an archival analysis of news stories about people waiting in line to make a purchase. Consumers derive value from anticipation, and that value tends to be greater for experiential than for material purchases.

Concepts: Louisiana Purchase, Hedonism, Tendency, Experience, Present, Purchasing, Tend, Happiness


When it comes to the pursuit of happiness, popular culture encourages a focus on oneself. By contrast, substantial evidence suggests that what consistently makes people happy is focusing prosocially on others. In the current study, we contrasted the mood- and well-being-boosting effects of prosocial behavior (i.e., doing acts of kindness for others or for the world) and self-oriented behavior (i.e., doing acts of kindness for oneself) in a 6-week longitudinal experiment. Across a diverse sample of participants (N = 473), we found that the 2 types of prosocial behavior led to greater increases in psychological flourishing than did self-focused and neutral behavior. In addition, we provide evidence for mechanisms explaining the relative improvements in flourishing among those prompted to do acts of kindness-namely, increases in positive emotions and decreases in negative emotions. Those assigned to engage in self-focused behavior did not report improved psychological flourishing, positive emotions, or negative emotions relative to controls. The results of this study contribute to a growing literature supporting the benefits of prosocial behavior and challenge the popular perception that focusing on oneself is an optimal strategy to boost one’s mood. People striving for happiness may be tempted to treat themselves. Our results, however, suggest that they may be more successful if they opt to treat someone else instead. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Happiness, Culture, Human behavior, Popular culture, Positive psychology, Random act of kindness, Psychology, Emotion


Psychologists, quality of life and well-being researchers have grown increasingly interested in understanding the factors that are associated with human happiness. Although twin studies estimate that genetic factors account for 35-50% of the variance in human happiness, knowledge of specific genes is limited. However, recent advances in molecular genetics can now provide a window into neurobiological markers of human happiness. This investigation examines association between happiness and monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) genotype. Data were drawn from a longitudinal study of a population-based cohort, followed for three decades. In women, low expression of MAOA (MAOA-L) was related significantly to greater happiness (0.261 SD increase with one L-allele, 0.522 SD with two L-alleles, P=0.002) after adjusting for the potential effects of age, education, household income, marital status, employment status, mental disorder, physical health, relationship quality, religiosity, abuse history, recent negative life events and self-esteem use in linear regression models. In contrast, no such association was found in men. This new finding may help explain the gender difference on happiness and provide a link between MAOA and human happiness.

Concepts: Evolution, DNA, Happiness, Linear regression, Biology, Gene, Monoamine oxidase, Genetics