Q&A – The Psychology and Neuroscience of Happiness

Q&A – The Psychology and Neuroscience of Happiness



Is happiness a cognitive choice? Are you on average happy and sad in equal measure? Why are scientists happier than artists?
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Vin Walsh, Morten Kringelbach, Julia Christensen, and Joe Gladstone answer audience questions following their presentations on the science of happiness.

Watch the full talk here: https://youtu.be/6Gpxjeq2CJ8

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October 11, 2017 / 4 Comments / by / in
  • …listening to Q/A, about "self help" of happiness being downplayed, I cannot help but think of Alex Korb's ("The Upward Spiral") mention of … not gratitude – but the actual practice of looking for things to be grateful for, and it's engagement of different brain subsystems, and the cumulative neurobiological effect Korb claims of that. I was surprised to read Korb stating "you don't need to actually find anything to be grateful for – you just need to try to find…" — which this panel seems to speak as if that wasn't so…

    It makes me think that the more we learn about brain science, the more researchers focus on their areas of interest, the more of a challenge integrating all that research will be … for them, and for us…

  • Sam

    I think the Q&A of this talk was much more fruitful than the talk itself. That's not to say the talk was worthless, I think it was good, but the conversation that takes places here really showcases how little we know about what happiness actually is.

    As Joe said, through all the mass surveys we've learned a lot of the answers to the "what" questions. I think we, as a society, really need to start developing smart research techniques that address the why and how questions. Causation seems much harder to prove and being able prove causation often depends on understanding the mechanisms of the the system in question (as Morten pointed out).

    This leads me to conclude that governments and private funding agencies really need to shift their money away from big data surveys and towards research that attempts to quantify relationships in systems in an understandable way.

    That's not to say I think that big data surveys should disappear, but on that front, I would love to see innovation in the field of gathering reliable information. Specifically, surveys should focus more of their time figuring out how to ask questions that reveal a truth, without the survey taker having to feel societal pressure (and anonymous surveys are certainly not a good enough solution as people still will lie or stretch the truth on those).

    I also think it's really important for a survey to make it clear what it's asking about which is why I think most "happiness" surveys aren't quite as useful as they could be. As I said before, we haven't really properly defined happiness so how could someone reliably (on a scientific level) give information on questions about it? It's not useless data because so many people get surveyed and we all have a generally congruous idea of what happiness is, but it's nowhere near as useful as it would be if we actually knew what we were asking about on a scientific level.

    An example of this is perhaps, instead of asking "On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your overall happiness?", we could say "Please write about what happiness means to you, and then explain how the concept relates to your life." It's true that this doesn't give information in a spread-sheetable manner and it would take a lot more time to sift through that kind of data. On the other hand, perhaps that could open up a lot more jobs since organizing and understanding that kind of data isn't something computers can do quite yet.

    These kind of deeper surveys, paired with research into the actual mechanisms of happiness (or anything else for that matter) I truly believe will be the most effective methods for gaining a more profound understanding on the topic.

    Thanks for the talk RI. 🙂

  • Happy people tell themselves they're happy. The brain is skeptical of external information but it believes it's internal voice. This has been scientifically proven.

  • I don't like how the moderator shut down/criticised the question about happieness of scientist versus artist. It is perfectly fine to say that we don't know etiology, but still speculate. There is no reason to stifle a dialogue.

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