Content of Emotional Life

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Content of emotional life means the typical emotions a person is likely to experience over time. For example, someone characterized as an angry or hot-tempered person should have an emotional life that contains a good deal of anger , irritability, and hostility. Someone else whose emotional life contains a lot of pleasant emotions is someone we might characterize as happy , cheerful, and enthusiastic. Thus, the notion of content leads us to consider the kinds of emotions that people are likely to experience over time and across situations in their lives. We will begin with a discussion of the pleasant emotional dispositions.

Pleasant Emotions

In lists of primary emotions, happiness or joy are typically the only pleasant emotions mentioned (though some theorists include interest as a pleasant emotion). In trait approaches to emotion, the major pleasant disposition is happiness and the associated feelings of being satisfied with one s life. We begin with these concepts.

Definitions of Happiness and Life Satisfactio Over 2,000 years ago, Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote that happiness was the supreme good and that the goal of life was to attain happiness. Moreover, he taught that happiness was attained by living a virtuous life and being a good person. Countless other scholars and philosophers have of fered many other theories on the sources of human happiness. For example, unlike Aristotle, eighteenth-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau speculated that the road to happiness lies in the satisfaction of one' s desires and the hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. In the late nineteenth century , the founder of psychology in America, William James, taught that happiness was the ratio of one's accomplishments to one's aspirations. One could achieve happiness, James thought, in one of two ways: by accomplishing more in life or by lowering one's aspirations.

Although many philosophers and psychologists have speculated about the roots of happiness for centuries, the scientific study of happiness is relatively recent. Psy chologists began the serious study of happiness (also called subjective well-being or life satisfaction) in the mid-1970s. Since then, scientific research on the topic ha grown by leaps and bounds. In recent years, hundreds of scientific articles on happi ness are published annually in the psychological literature (Diener & Seligman, 2002).

One way to define happiness is to examine how researchers measure it. Several questionnaire measures are widely used in surveys and other research. Because happiness is a subjective quality—it depends on an individual' s own judgment of his or her life—researchers almost have to rely on questionnaires. Some of these questionnaires focus on judgments about one' s life, such as "How satisfied are you wit your life as a whole these days? Are you very satisfied, satisfied, not very satisfi or not at all satisfied? Other questionnaires focus on emotion, particularly on the balance between pleasant and unpleasant emotions in a person' s life. An example of this type of questioning was proposed by Fordyce (1978), in which the subject is asked the following questions:

What percent of the time are you happy?_

What percent of the time are you neutral?_

What percent of the time are you unhappy?_

Make sure your percents add up to 100%.

Among college students, data indicate that the average person reports being happy 65 percent of the time, neutral 15 percent, and unhappy 20 percent (Larsen & Diener, 1985). The percent happy scale is one of the better measures of happiness in terms of construct validity . For example, it predicts a wide range of other happiness-related aspects of a person' s personality, such as day-to-day moods and peer reports of overall happiness (Larsen, Diener , & Lucas, 2002).

Researchers conceive of happiness in two complementary ways: (1) in terms of a judgment that life is satisfying and (2) in terms of the predominance of positive

William James defined happiness as the ratio of one's accomplishments to one's aspirations.

compared with negative emotions in one' s life (Diener, 2000). It turns out, however , that people's emotional lives and the judgments of how satisfied they are with thei lives are highly correlated. People who have a lot of pleasant emotions in their lives tend to judge their lives as satisfying, and vice versa (Diener , Lucas, & Larsen, 2003).

Can it be that happy people are just deluding themselves, that most people are really miserable and happy people just don' t know it or are denying it? It would be easy to lie on a questionnaire and to portray oneself as being happy and satisfied. This is the idea of social desirability , as discussed in Chapter 4. It turns out that measures of happiness do correlate with social desirability scores. In other words, people who score high on social desirability also score high on self-reported happiness scales. Moreover, social desirability measures also correlate with nonself-report happiness scores, such as peer reports of happiness. This finding suggests that having a positiv view of oneself is part of being a happy person. Said dif ferently, part of being happy is to have positive illusions about the self, an inflated view of one s own characteristics as a good, able, and desirable person, as this characteristic appears to be part of emotional well-being (T aylor, 1989; Taylor et al., 2000).

Despite the correlation of self-report measures of happiness with social desirability, other findings suggest that these happiness measures are valid (Diene , Oishi, & Lucas, 2003). These findings concern the positive correlations found between self report and nonself-report measures of happiness. People who report that they are happy tend to have friends and family members who agree (Sandvik, Diener , & Seidlitz, 1993). In addition, studies of the daily diaries of happy people find that the report many more pleasant experiences than do unhappy people (Larsen & Diener , 1985). When different clinical psychologists interview a sample of people, the psychologists tend to agree strongly about which are happy and satisfied and which ar not (Diener, 2000). And, in an interesting experiment, Seidlitz and Diener (1993) gave the participants five minutes to recall as many happy events in their lives as possibl and then gave them five minutes to recall as many unhappy events in their lives a possible. They found that the happy people recalled more pleasant events, and fewer unpleasant events, than did the unhappy people.

Questionnaire measures of happiness and well-being also predict other aspects of people's lives that we would expect to relate to happiness (Diener , Lucas, & Larsen, 2003). For example, compared with unhappy people, happy people are less abusive and hostile, are less self-focused, and report fewer instances of disease. They also are more helpful and cooperative, have more social skills, are more creative and energetic, are more forgiving, and are more trusting (Myers, 1993, 2000; Myers & Diener , 1995; Veenhoven, 1988). In summary, self-reports of happiness appear to be valid and trustworthy (Larsen & Prizmic, in press). After all, who but the persons themselves are the best judge of their subjective well-being? See T able 13.2 for a sample "life satisfaction" questionnaire.

What Good Is Happiness? It has long been known that happiness correlates with many positive outcomes in life, such as marriage, longevity , self-esteem, and satisfaction with one' s job (Diener , Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). These correlations between desirable outcomes in life and happiness are often interpreted to mean that success in some area of life (e.g., a good marriage) will make a person happy . As another example, the very small correlation between personal wealth and happiness is often interpreted as meaning that having money can make one (slightly more) happy. The majority of researchers in this area have gone on the assumption that successful outcomes foster happiness and that the causal direction goes from being successful leading to increased happiness.

Below are five statements with which you may agree or disagree. Using the scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. Please be open and honest in your responses.

Below are five statements with which you may agree or disagree. Using the scale below, indicate your agreement with each item by placing the appropriate number on the line preceding that item. Please be open and honest in your responses.

Strong Disagreement

Moderate Disagreement 2

Slight Disagreement 3

Slight Agreement 4

Moderate Agreement 5

Strong Agreement 6

In most ways my life is close to my ideal.

If I could live my life over, I would change almost nothing.

I am satisfied with my life.

So far I have gotten the important things I want in life. The conditions of my life are excellent.

*From Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985.

Recently, a group of researchers (L yubomirsky, King, & Diener , 2005) questioned this assumption about the causal direction going from success to happiness. They suggested that there may be areas of life where the causality goes in the opposite direction, from happiness to success. For example, it could be that being happy leads one to get married, or to have a better marriage, instead of having a good marriage leading one to become happy .

In an extremely lar ge meta-analysis of the happiness and well-being literature, Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) reviewed many studies that might be used to disentangle the causal direction between happiness and several dif ferent outcomes. There are two kinds of studies that are most useful in assessing causal direction. One type of study is longitudinal, where people are measured on at least two occasions separated in time. If happiness precedes success in life, then we have some evidence that the causal direction might go from happiness to the outcome. A second type of study is experimental, where happiness is manipulated (people are put in a good mood) for half the sample (the other half is the control group), and some outcome is measured. If the outcome is higher in the group under going the happiness induction than in the control group, then we have some evidence that the causal direction might go from happiness to the outcome.

Lyubomirsky et al. (2005) found that longitudinal studies provided evidence that happiness leads to, or at least comes before, positive outcomes in many areas of life. They found that happiness preceded many important positive outcomes, including fulfilling an productive work, satisfying relationships, and superior mental and physical health and longevity. Experimental studies also provide evidence that happiness can lead to several positive outcomes, including being more helpful and altruistic, wanting to be with others, increases in self-esteem and liking of others, a better functioning immune system, more effective conflict resolution skills, and more creative or more original thinking

While happiness has been shown to lead to many positive outcomes in life, the situation with some outcomes might be more complex and involve reciprocal causality, which refers to the idea that causality can flow in both directions. For example, w know that happy people are more likely to help others who are in need. Also, from the experimental literature, we know that helping someone in need can lead to increases in happiness. This kind of reciprocal causality may apply to many areas of

Does having a good marriage cause a person to be happy? Or does being happy cause one to have a good marriage?

life, including having a satisfying marriage or intimate relationship, having a fulfill ing job, or having high self-esteem.

What Is Known about Happy People In an article entitled "Who Is Happy?" psychologists David Myers and Ed Diener (1995) reviewed what is known about happy people. For example, are women happier than men, or are men the happier gender? In the United States, women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men. This might suggest that men are happier than women. However , men are at least twice as likely as women to become alcoholics. The use of alcohol may be one way men medicate themselves for depression, so the real rate of depression may be more similar for men and women. Researchers need to examine actual studies of happiness to address the gender dif ference question. Fortunately , an excellent and thorough review of the studies on gender and happiness has already been done. Haring, Stock, and Okun (1984) analyzed 146 studies on global well-being and found that gender accounted for less than 1 percent of the variation in people' s happiness. This finding of practically no di ference between men and women appears across cultures and countries as well. Michalos (1991) obtained data on 18,032 university students from 39 countries. He found that roughly equal proportions of men and women rated themselves as being satisfied wit their lives. Diener (2000) also reports gender equality in overall happiness.

Is happiness more likely among young, middle-aged, or older people? We often think that certain age periods are more stressful than others, such as the midlife crisis or the stress of adolescence. This might lead us to believe that certain times of life are happier than others. Inglehart (1990) addressed this question in a study of 169,776 people from 16 nations. It was found that the circumstances that make people happy change with age. For example, financial security and health are important fo happiness later in life, whereas, for younger adults, success at school or work and satisfying intimate relationships are important for happiness. However , in looking at overall levels of happiness, Inglehart concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that any one time of life was happier than any other .

Is ethnicity related to happiness? Are some ethnic groups happier than others? Many surveys have included questions about ethnic identity, so a wealth of data exists on this question. Summarizing many such studies, Myers and Diener (1995) conclude that ethnic group membership is unrelated to subjective well-being. For example, African Americans report roughly the same amount of happiness as European Americans and, in fact, have slightly lower levels of depression (Diener et al., 1993). Crocker and Major (1989) suggest that people from disadvantaged social groups maintain their happiness by valuing the activities they are good at, by comparing themselves with members of their own group, and by blaming their problems on events that are outside of their control.

What about national differences in well-being? Are people from certain nations happier than people from other nations? The answer here seems to be yes. An impressive study by Diener, Diener, and Diener (1995) examined well-being scores obtained using probability surveys in 55 nations. The nations sampled in this study represented 75 percent of the earth' s population. The results are portrayed in T able 13.3, where

Table 13.3 Country Scores of Average Subjective Well-Being

Subjective Subjective

Table 13.3 Country Scores of Average Subjective Well-Being

Subjective Subjective








- .29




- .38




- .41




- .41




- .44




- .48



Puerto Rico








South Africa


New Zealand




N. Ireland


































S. Korea





- 1.31




- 1.31

W. Germany


E. Germany




U. S. S. R.












Dominican Republic










Standard deviation


Source: Diener, Diener, & Diener, 1995.

Source: Diener, Diener, & Diener, 1995.

the nations are rank-ordered on the well-being measure. Looking at the rankings, what do you think might account for the dif ferences between the countries that were high and low on well-being?

The researchers were able to assemble a broad array of other environmental, social, and economic information on each of these countries, and they tested whether any of these variables correlated with average national happiness. At the national level, the poorer countries appeared to possess less happiness and life satisfaction than the countries that were wealthier. The nations also differed in the rights they provided their citizens. The researchers found that the countries that provided few civil and political rights tended to have lower well-being than did the countries where civil rights and individual freedoms were well protected by laws. Other national variables, such as population density and cultural homogeneity , showed only minor correlations with well-being. Diener et al. (1995) concluded that differences in the economic development of nations may be the primary source of dif ferences in the subjective well-being of societies. Researchers who have conducted similar but smaller -scale national surveys have offered similar findings (Easterlin, 1974; Veenhoven, 1991a, 1991b).

Such findings might lead us to think that money or income makes people happ . People often think that, if they made a bit more money or if they had a few more material goods, they would be happier . Some believe that if they win the lottery they will be happy for the rest of their lives. Researchers have found that there is no simple answer to the question about whether money makes people happy (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2002).

Research on the objective circumstances of a person' s life—age, sex, ethnicity, income, and so on—shows that these matter very little to overall happiness, yet we know that people dif fer from each other and that, even through life' s struggles and disappointments, some people are consistently happier than others. Costa, McCrae, and Zonderman (1987) found, in a study of 5,000 adults, that the people who were happy in 1973 were also happy 10 years later, in spite of undergoing many changes in life. What else might explain why some people are consistently happier than others?

Personality and Well-Being In 1980, psychologists Paul Costa and Robert McCrae concluded that demographic variables, such as gender , age, ethnicity , and income, accounted for only about 10 to 15 percent of the variation in happiness, an estimate confirmed by others (Myers & Diene , 1995). This leaves a lot of the variance in subjective well-being unaccounted for . Costa and McCrae (1980) proposed that personality might have something to do with disposing certain people to be happy and, so, looked into that research. The few studies existing at that time suggested that happy people were outgoing and sociable (Smith, 1979), emotionally stable, and low on neu-roticism (Wessman & Ricks, 1966).

Costa and McCrae used such information to theorize that there may be two personality traits that influence happiness: extraversion and neuroticism. Moreove , Costa and McCrae made specific predictions about exactly how extraversion and neuroti cism influenced happiness. Their idea was both simple and elegant. They began with the notion that happiness was the presence of relatively high levels of positive af fect, and relatively low levels of negative af fect, in a person's life over time. Extraversion, they held, influenced a person s positive emotions, whereas neuroticism determined a person's negative emotions.

Costa and McCrae (1980; McCrae & Costa, 1991) found that their model was supported by further research. Extraversion and neuroticism predicted the amounts of

A Closer Look Does Money Make People Happy?

Pop singer Madonna, also known as "the Material Girl," has sung the praises of materialism. Americans are often thought of as materialistic. In fact, in surveys, the goal of being very well off financially is often rated as the top goal in life by first-year college students, surpassing other goals, such as being helpful to others, realizing potential as a person, and raising a family (Myers, 2000). This attitude is summarized by a bumper sticker seen on an expensive car towing a large boat, which read, "When the game is over, the person with the most toys wins." Does having more make one a winner? Does money lead to happiness?

Looked at in terms of national data, the answer seems to be that wealthier countries do indeed have higher average levels of life satisfaction than poorer countries. Myers and Diener (1995) report that the correlation between a nation's well-being score and its gross national product (adjusted for population size) is +.67. However, national wealth is confounded with many other variables that influence well-being, such as health-care services, civil rights, care for the elderly, and education. This is a classic example of how potential third variables might explain why two variables are related (see discussion of this problem in Chapter 2). For example, wealthier countries may have higher well-being because they also provide better health care for their citizens.

To counteract this research problem, we must look at the relationship between income and happiness within specific countries. Diener and Diener (1995) report that, in very poor countries, such as Bangladesh and India, financial status is a moderately good predictor of well-being. However, once people can afford life's basic necessities, it appears that increasing one's financial status matters very little to one's well-being. In countries that have a higher standard of living, where most people have their basic needs met (such as in Europe or the United States), income "has a surprisingly weak (virtually negligible) effect on happiness" (In-glehart, 1990, p. 242).

What if we were to look within a country and examine changes in affluence over time, within a single economy, to see if people become happier as the country becomes more affluent? The United States, for example, has undergone huge increases in national wealth, income, and affluence over the past half-century. For example, from 1957 to the late 1990s, the average person's after-tax income (in constant 1995 dollars) has more than doubled, going from $8,000 to $20,000 annually. Are Americans happier today than they were in 1957? Myers (2000) reports that Americans are not any happier today. This is illustrated by Figure 13.2, which shows that the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as very happy has stayed fairly constant over the decades, fluctuating right around 30 percent. This constant rate of personal happiness stands in contrast to the corresponding steep increase in personal wealth experienced during those decades. Easterlin (1995) reports similar results for certain European countries and Japan, where increases in average per-person wealth were not accompanied by increases in average per-person happiness. Such findings suggest that, at least within affluent societies, further boosts in eco nomic growth are not necessarily accompanied by rises in life satisfaction among the population.

This finding of a lack of relation between income and happiness contradicts the views of many politicians, economists, and policymakers. Moreover, it seems to run counter to common sense, as well as data on poverty and poor life outcomes. For example, people in the lowest levels of the economy have the highest rates of depression (McLoyd, 1998). Economic hardship takes a toll on people, increasing stress and conflict in people's lives. Poverty is associated with elevations in a variety of negative life outcomes, ranging from infant mortality to increased violent crimes, such as homicide (Belle et al., 2000). How can poverty be associated with such unfortunate circumstances yet income not be related to happiness? The answer, it seems, lies in the notion of a threshold of income, below which a person is very unlikely to be happy, at least in the United States (Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Once a person is above this threshold, however, the notion that having more money would make one happier does not seem to hold (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2002).

Myers and Diener (1995) make the analogy between wealth and health: the absence of either health or wealth can bring misery, but their presence is no guarantee that happiness will follow. An interesting experiment to test this assertion for wealth would be to take a sample of people and randomly assign them to two groups. In Group 1, you give each member $1 million. In Group 2 you give each member $1. Then you see whether, six months later, the people in Group 1 (the new millionaires) are happier than








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sonal inco





very happ









1960 1970 Year





1960 1970 Year




Figure 13.2

Has the large growth in average income been accompanied by an increase in average happiness within the United States? Source: Adapted from Myers, D. G. (2000). "The Funds, Friends, and Faith of Happy People," American Psychologist, 55-57, figure 1. Copyright © 2000 by the American Psychological Association. Reprinted with permission.

the people in Group 2. Of course, this experiment would be impossible to conduct, right? Wrong. With the advent of state lotteries in the United States, many people become millionaires overnight. Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman (1978) conducted a study of lottery winners, comparing their happiness levels with those of people from similar backgrounds who had not won large amounts of money. Within six months of winning, the newly rich lottery winners were found to be no more happy than the subjects in the control group. Apparently, winning the lottery is not as good as it sounds, at least not in terms of making a person permanently happy. In a related study, Diener, Horwitz, and Emmons (1985) had 49 of the wealthiest people in the United States (according to the list published annually in Forbes magazine) complete happiness questionnaires. They found that this group of extremely privileged people was not significantly happier than a control group of people with modest incomes. In fact, 37 percent of these extremely wealthy persons were less happy than the average American.

What can we conclude about money and happiness? Probably the most reasonable conclusion is that, below a very low income level, a person is very unlikely to be happy. Being able to meet the basic needs of life (food, shelter, security) appears crucial. However, once those needs are met, research suggests that there is little to the notion that further wealth will bring increased happiness. Diener et al. (1995), for example, found that the correlation between personal income and happiness is +.12 in the United States. Although this correlation is not negative, it is hardly large enough to think that having a huge income, in itself, will make you happy. What wealthy people choose to do with their money may have more to do with their potential happiness than does the mere fact of having a lot of money.

Extraversion traits

Positive affect

Neuroticism traits

Negative ,, affect

The influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being, by making a person susceptibl to positive and negative affect. Source: Adapted from Costa and McCrae, 1980.

Subjective well-being

Figure 13.3

The influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being, by making a person susceptibl to positive and negative affect. Source: Adapted from Costa and McCrae, 1980.

positive and negative emotions in people' s lives and hence contributed greatly to subjective well-being. In fact, extraversion and neuroticism accounted for up to three times as much of the variation in happiness between people compared with all of the common demographic variables (e.g., age, income, gender , education, ethnicity, religion) put together. It appears that having the right combination of personality traits (high extraversion and low neuroticism) may contribute much more to happiness than gender, ethnicity, age, and all the other demographic characteristics. Their model of well-being is portrayed in Figure 13.3.

Since Costa and McCrae' s original study in 1980, more than a dozen studies have replicated the finding that extraversion and neuroticism are strong personalit correlates of well-being (summarized in Rusting & Larsen, 1998b). All of these studies have been correlational, however , usually taking the form of administering personality and well-being questionnaires, then examining the correlations.

Correlational studies cannot determine whether there is a direct causal connection between personality and well-being, or whether personality leads one to live a certain lifestyle and that lifestyle, in turn, makes one happy . For example, being neurotic may lead one to be a worrier and complainer . Other people dislike being around someone who worries a lot and is always complaining, so people may avoid the person who is high on neuroticism. Consequently , that person may be lonely and unhappy; however, that unhappiness may be due to the fact that the person drives people away by complaining all the time. The person's neuroticism leads him or her to create certain life situations, such as making others uncomfortable, and these situations in turn make the person unhappy (Hotard et al., 1989).

We can contrast this with a dif ferent view of the causal relation between personality and well-being, in which personality is viewed as directly causing people to react to the same situations with dif ferent amounts of positive or negative emotions, hence directly influencing their well-being. A neurotic person may respond with more negative emotion, even to the identical situation, than a person low in neuroticism. These two dif ferent models of the relation between personality and well-being—the direct and the indirect models—are portrayed in Figure 13.4. In the indirect model (Panel b), personality causes the person to create a certain lifestyle, and the lifestyle, in turn, causes the emotional reaction. In the direct model (Panel a), even when exposed to identical situations, certain people respond with more positive or negative emotions, depending on their level of extraversion and neuroticism.

Situations potentially able to elicit positive affect

Extraversion traits

Positive affect

Neuroticism traits

Negative ,, affect

Situations potentially able to elicit negative affect

Figure 13.4

Two models of the relationship between personality variables and subjective well-being. Panel a: Model showing a direct effect of personality on emotional life, where life events are amplified by the personalit traits, resulting in stronger positive or negative emotions for high extraversion or neuroticism subjects, respectively. Panel b: Model of the indirect relation between personality and emotional life. Here personality causes one to develop a lifestyle, and that lifestyle in turn fosters positive or negative affect for the high extraversion or neuroticism persons, respectively.

Figure 13.4

Two models of the relationship between personality variables and subjective well-being. Panel a: Model showing a direct effect of personality on emotional life, where life events are amplified by the personalit traits, resulting in stronger positive or negative emotions for high extraversion or neuroticism subjects, respectively. Panel b: Model of the indirect relation between personality and emotional life. Here personality causes one to develop a lifestyle, and that lifestyle in turn fosters positive or negative affect for the high extraversion or neuroticism persons, respectively.

Larsen and his colleagues (e.g., Larsen, 2000a; Larsen & Ketelaar , 1989, 1991; Rusting & Larsen, 1998b; Zelenski & Larsen, 1999) have conducted several studies of whether the personality traits of extraversion and neuroticism have a direct ef fect on emotional responding. In these studies, the participants underwent a mood induction in the laboratory. In one study, the subjects listened to guided images of very pleasant scenes (a walk on the beach) or very unpleasant scenes (having a friend dying of an incurable disease). In other studies, the participants' emotions were manipulated by having them look at pleasant or unpleasant photographs. Prior to the laboratory session, their personality scores on extraversion and neuroticism were obtained by questionnaire. The researchers were then able to determine if extraversion and neu-roticism scores predicted responses to the laboratory mood inductions. Across several studies, the best predictor of responsiveness to the positive mood induction was the personality variable of extraversion. The best predictor of responses to the negative mood induction was neuroticism. It seems that it is easy to put an extravert into a good mood, and easy to put a high-neuroticism person into a bad mood. Moreover , these laboratory studies suggest that personality acts like an amplifier of life events with extraverts showing amplified positive emotions to good events and high neuroticism subjects showing amplified emotions to bad events. These findings ar important because they suggest that personality has a direct ef fect on emotions and that, even under controlled circumstances, people respond dif ferently to the emotional events in their lives, depending on their personalities.


A program to increase happiness. Psychologists know a great deal about what correlates with happiness, but what can they recommend for the average person who wants to maintain or increase his or her levels of trait happiness? Buss (2000) has identified several strategies for improving one's chances of being happy. In addition, Fordyce (1988) (see also Swanbrow, 1989) has developed a practical program for applying what is known about happiness in everyday life. And Larsen (2000a; Larsen & Prizmic, 2004) proposes a collection of strategies for coping and improving one's emotional life. Most psychologists believe that happiness is something that people must work at (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999, 2000). The following is a summary of much of the advice given by these psychologists:

1. Spend time with other people, particularly friends, family, and loved ones. The one characteristic common to most happy people is a disposition to be sociable, to draw satisfaction from being with other people. Cultivate an interest in other people. Go out of your way to spend time with friends and loved ones. Try to get to know those around you.

2. Seek challenge and meaning in work. If satisfying relationships are the first priority, the second is having work that you find enjoyable. Happy people enjoy their work and work hard at what they do. If you do not find your current work (or college major) rewarding, then consider switching to something that you find more worthwhile. Work that is challenging, but within your skill level, is usually the most satisfying.

Application (Continued)

3. Look for ways to be helpful to others. Helping others can make you feel good about yourself and give you the feeling that your life is meaningful. Helping others thereby provides a boost in self-esteem. Helping has a second benefit as well; helping someone else can take your mind off your own problems or can make your problems seem little by comparison. There are plenty of worthy causes and plenty of organizations that welcome volunteers.

4. Take time out for yourself; enjoy the activities that give you pleasure. Don't wait to find time for your favorite hobby or activity. Instead, make time. Many people learn to keep a calendar while in college to schedule work and other obligations. Use it to schedule fun things as well. Set aside time to read a book, take in a movie, exercise regularly, or do whatever else you enjoy. Think about what gives you pleasure, and build time into your busy schedule for those activities.

5. Stay in shape. Exercise is positively associated with emotional well-being. Exercise need not be intense or all that frequent to provide the emotional benefit. Playing on team sports, dancing, biking, swimming, gardening, or even walking, if done at a brisk pace, is about all it takes. It doesn't seem to matter what the activity is, as long as you move around enough to keep in shape.

6. Have a plan, but be open to new experiences. Having an organized life allows a person to accomplish much. However, sometimes the most fun moments in life are unplanned. Be open to trying different things or having different experiences—try going somewhere you have never been, try doing a routine activity a little differently, or try doing something on the spur of the moment. Be flexible, rather than rigid, and try to avoid getting stuck in any ruts.

7. Be optimistic. Put on a smiling face, whistle a happy tune, look for the silver lining in every cloud. Sure, it sounds too good to be true, but acting happy and trying to look on the bright side of things can go a long way toward making you feel happy. Try to avoid negative thinking. Don't make pessimistic statements, even to yourself. Convince yourself that the cup really is half full.

8. Don't let things get blown out of proportion. Sometimes when something bad happens, it seems like the end of the world. Happy people have the ability to step back and see things in perspective. Happy people think about their options and about the other things in their lives that are going well. They think about what they can do to work on their problems or what to avoid in the future. But they don't think it is the end of the world. Often asking yourself "What's the worst that can come of this?" will help put things in perspective.

Just wishing for happiness is not likely to make it so. Psychologists agree that people have to work at being happy; they have to work at overcoming the unpleasant events of life, the losses and failures that happen to everyone. The strategies in the previous list can be thought of as a personal program for working on happiness.

People high on the personality trait of neuroticism tend to worry frequently. They may worry about their health, their social interactions, their work, their future, or just about anything. Worrying and complaining takes up a great proportion of their time.

Unpleasant Emotions

Unlike pleasant emotion, the unpleasant emotions come in several distinct varieties. We will discuss three important unpleasant emotions that are viewed by psychologists as having dispositional characteristics: anxiety , depression, and anger.

Trait Anxiety and Neur oticism Recall that people who exhibit the trait of neuroticism are vulnerable to negative emotions. Neuroticism is one of the Big Five dimensions of personality, and it is present, in some form, in every major trait theory of personality.

Different researchers have used dif ferent terms for neuroticism, such as emotional instability, anxiety-proneness, and negative affectivity (Watson & Clark, 1984). Adjectives useful for describing persons high on the trait of neuroticism include moody, touchy , irritable, anxious, unstable, pessimistic, and complaining. Hans Eysenck (1967, 1990; Eysenck & Eysenck, 1985) suggested that individuals high on the neuroticism dimension tend to overreact to unpleasant events, such as frustrations or problems, and that they take longer to return to a normal state after being upset. They are easily irritated, worry about many things, and seem to be constantly complaining. You may have heard the phrase "She is not happy unless she has something to worry about." Well, it is unlikely that worrying actually makes a person happy . But the fact that some people worry almost all the time might suggest that worrying fulfills a need for them. Some people worry about their health ("Is this nagging coug really a sign that I have lung cancer? Could this headache really be a brain tumor?"). Others worry about their social relations ("When that person smiled at me, was it really a smirk?"). And still others worry about their work ("Why can' t I seem to get as much work done as my friends do?").

In addition to worry and anxiety , the person high on the neuroticism dimension frequently experiences episodes of irritation. An interesting way to illustrate this is to ask people to list all the things that have irritated them in the past week. Perhaps seeing someone spit in public is irritating to many people. Or seeing someone with a pierced nose and eyebrows might be mentioned as irritating. Or seeing a couple kissing in public might be mentioned. If people were to write down all the things that irritated them, you would find tha people high on neuroticism would have much longer lists than people low in neuroticism. Persons high in neuroticism are frequently annoyed, even by the smallest transgressions ("I went to the store and someone was parked in the fire lane. That really irritates me. Then my mathematics professor wore the same suit and tie for two days in a row. What a jerk; he can't even change his tie each class"). The person high on neuroticism is a complainer , and others quickly learn that such a person will complain about practically anything— "That person driving in front of us changed lanes without using his turn signal; what a complete idiot!"

Eysenck's biological theory As briefly discussed in Chapter 3 Eysenck (1967, 1990) argues that neuroticism has a biological basis. In his theory of personality , neuroticism is due primarily to a tendency of the limbic system in the brain to become easily activated. The limbic system is the part of the brain responsible for emotion and the fight-o -flight reaction. If someone has a limbic system tha is easily activated, then that person probably has frequent episodes of emotion, particularly emotions associated with flight (such a anxiety, fear, and worry) and with fight (such as ange , irritation, and annoyance). High-neuroticism persons are anxious, irritated, and easily upset, so the theory goes, because their limbic systems are more easily aroused to produce such emotions. They are also prone to get irritated easily , sometimes to the point of anger .

There have been no direct tests of Eysenck' s limbic theory of neuroticism, in which direct measures of limbic activity have been obtained and related to neuroticism. Because the limbic system is located deep within the brain, its activity is not easily measured by EEG electrodes, which are placed on the surface of the scalp. Newer brain imaging technologies, such as MRI or PET , are allowing personality researchers to test this theory directly (Canli et al., 2001). Nevertheless, Eysenck (1990) has made several logical ar guments in favor of a biological basis for neuroticism. First, many studies have shown a remarkable level of stability in neuroticism. For example, Conley (1984a, b, 1985) found that neuroticism showed a high test-retest correlation after a period of 45 years. Although this does not prove a biological basis for neuroticism, stability is nevertheless consistent with a biological explanation. A second argument is that neuroticism is a major dimension of personality that is found in many dif ferent kinds of data sets (e.g., self-report, peer report) in many dif ferent cultures and environments by many dif ferent investigators. Again, although this ubiquity does not prove a biological basis, the fact that neuroticism is so widely found across cultures and data sources is consistent with a biological explanation. And a third ar gument in favor of a biological explanation, put forward by Eysenck (1990), is that many genetic studies find that neuroticism shows one of th higher heritability values. Trait negative af fect shows relatively high levels of heri-tability, whereas trait positive af fect shows a significant shared environment compo nent (Goldsmith et al., 2001). That is, a predisposition to be neurotic appears to be somewhat inherited. Most behavior geneticists believe that what is heritable in the heritability of emotion traits is individual dif ferences in neurotransmitter function, such as in dopamine transport or serotonin re-uptake (Grigorenko, 2002).

Other biologically based research on emotion traits concerns which areas of the brain are active when processing emotion information, such as looking at sad pictures or thinking about something that makes one anxious or angry (Sutton, 2002). Most of the studies reveal that emotion is associated with an increased activation of the anterior cingulate cortex (Bush, Luu, & Posner , 2000; Whalen et al., 1998). The anterior cingulate is the portion of the brain located deep inside toward the center of the brain, and it most likely evolved early in the evolution of the nervous system. A recent study demonstrated increased cingulate cortex activation during social rejection (Eisenberger, Lieberman, & Williams, 2003). In this cleaver study , the subject was in an fMRI machine playing a computer game of catch with two other persons. After a while, the two other persons quit throwing the ball to the subject and instead played catch with themselves for 40 passes in a row . While this was happening, the poor subject's brain was scanned and that was when the researchers discovered that social rejection, which often accompanies feelings of sadness and distress, caused increased activity in the anterior cingulate.

Other researchers have focused on the biological basis of the self-regulation of negative emotions. For example, Levesque and colleagues (2003) had subjects watch a sad film. Half of them were told to do whatever they could to stop or prevent th sad feelings and to not show any emotional reactions during the film. Subjects wh were successful at this exhibited increased activity in the right ventral medial prefrontal cortex, part of the so-called executive control center of the brain. Other studies have also identified this area as highly active in the control of emotio

(Beauregard, Levesque, and Bourgouin, 2001). As we will see in the section on anger regulation below, many people who have committed violent acts exhibit a neurological deficit in the frontal areas, the areas assumed to be responsible for the regulatio of negative emotions.

Cognitive theories Another way to look at neuroticism is as a cognitive phenomenon. Some personality psychologists have ar gued that the cause of neuroticism lies not so much in the biology of the limbic brain but in the psychology of the person' s overall cognitive system. These theorists have ar gued that neuroticism is caused by certain styles of information processing (such as attending, thinking, and remembering). Lishman (1972), for example, found that high-N (neuroticism) subjects were more likely to recall unpleasant information than were low-N subjects. There was no relation between neuroticism and the recall of pleasant information. After studying lists of pleasant and unpleasant words, high-N subjects also recalled the unpleasant words faster than the pleasant words. Martin, Ward, and Clark (1983) had subjects study information about themselves and about others. When asked to recall that information, the high-N subjects recalled more negative information about themselves but did not recall more negative information about others. There appear to be very specific information-processing characteristics associated with neuroticism: it appears t relate to the preferential processing of negative (but not positive) information about the self (but not about others). Martin et al. (1983) state that "high-N scorers recall more self-negative words than low-N scorers because memory traces for self-negative words are stronger in the high-N scorers" (p. 500).

As a related explanation for the relation between neuroticism and selective memory for unpleasant information, researchers use a version of spreading activation concept, which was discussed in Chapter 10. Recall that this notion suggests that material is stored in memory by being linked with other , similar pieces of material. Many psychologists hold that emotional experiences are also stored in memory. Moreover, some individuals—those high in neuroticism—have richer networks of association surrounding memories of negative emotion. Consequently , for them, unpleasant material is more accessible, leading them to have higher rates of recall for unpleasant information.

One type of unpleasant information in memory concerns memory for illnesses, injuries, and physical symptoms. If high-N subjects have a richer network of associations surrounding unpleasant information in memories, then they are also likely to recall more instances of illness and bodily complaints. Try asking a high-N person the following question: "So, what's your health been like the past few months?" Be prepared for a long answer , with a litany of complaints and many details about specific symptoms. Study after study has established a link between neuroticism an self-reported health complaints. For example, Smith and colleagues (1989) asked subjects to recall whether they had experienced each of 90 symptoms within the past three weeks. Neuroticism correlated with the self-reported frequencies of symptoms, usually in the range of r = .4 to .5. This means that roughly 15 to 25 percent of the variation in health symptoms could be attributed to the personality variable of neuroticism.

Larsen (1992) examined the sources of bias in neurotics' reports of physical illnesses. He asked participants to report every day on whether or not they experienced any physical symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough, sore throat, backache, stomachache, sore muscles, headache, loss of appetite, and so on. The participants made daily reports for two months, providing the researcher with a day-by-day running report of physical symptoms. After the daily report phase was complete, Larsen then asked the participants to recall, as accurately as they could, how many times they reported each symptom during the two months of daily reporting. This unusual research design allowed the researcher to calculate the subjects' "true" total number of symptoms, as reported on a daily basis, as well as their remembered number of symptoms. It turned out that both of these scores were related to neuroticism. That is, the high-N participants reported more daily symptoms, and they recalled more symptoms, than did the stable low-N subjects. Moreover , even when controlling for the number of day-to-day symptoms reported, neuroticism was still related to elevated levels of recalled symptoms.

High-neuroticism persons recall and report more symptoms, but are they more likely than stable low-N individuals to actually have more physical illnesses? This is a tricky question to address, as even medical doctors rely on a person' s self-reports of symptoms to establish the presence of physical disease. The answer is to look at objective indicators of illness and disease and to see if those are related to neuroti-cism. Major disease categories, such as coronary disease, cancer , or premature death, appear to have little, if any , relation to neuroticism (W atson & Pennnebaker, 1989). Costa and McCrae (1985) reviewed this literature and concluded that "neuroticism influences perceptions of health, but not health itself (p. 24). Similar conclusions were reached by Holroyd and Coyne (1987), who wrote that neuroticism reflects " biased style of perceiving physiological experiences" (p. 372).

Recent research on the immune system, however , is showing that neuroticism does appear to be related to diminished immune function during stress (Herbert & Cohen, 1993). In a fascinating study by Marsland et al. (2001), subjects underwent vaccination for hepatitis B, and their antibody response to the injection was measured (this is a measure of how well the immune system responds to antigens in a vaccine). It was found that the subjects low in neuroticism mounted and maintained the strongest immune response to the vaccine. This finding suggests that persons high i neuroticism may, in fact, be more susceptible to immune-mediated diseases. In other words, they may not be just remembering more illness but may actually have more symptoms than subjects low in neuroticism. We will return to personality and health in Chapter 18, but for now we will get back to the topic of neuroticism and emotional reactivity and will examine one final theory that suggests a cognitive explana tion of negative emotional reactivity in neuroticism.

Psychologists have proposed a theory that high-neuroticism subjects pay more attention to threats and unpleasant information in their environments (e.g., Dalgleish, 1995; Matthews, 2000; Matthews, Derryberry , & Siegle, 2000). High-N subjects are thought to have a stronger behavioral inhibition system, compared to low-N persons, making them particularly vulnerable to cues of punishment and frustration and prompting them to be vigilant for signs of threat. These researchers ar gue that high-N subjects are on the lookout for threatening information in their environment, constantly scanning for anything that might be menacing, unsafe, or negative.

Researchers have incorporated a version of the Stroop ef fect into investigations of attentional bias and neuroticism. The Stroop ef fect (Stroop, 1935) describes the increased time it takes to name the color in which a word is written when that word names a dif ferent color, relative to when it is a matching color word or a patch of color. For example, if the word blue is written in red ink, then it takes longer to name the color of the ink (red) than it would take if the word red were written in red ink. Researchers agree that the relevant dimension (color of ink) and the irrelevant dimension (name of the word) produce a conflict within the attentional system. If a person s attentional system can ef ficiently suppress the irrelevant dimension (the word), the he or she should be faster in naming the color than someone who cannot suppress the word information.

The Stroop task has been modified to study individual di ferences in attention to emotion words. In the so-called emotion Stroop task, the content of the words is typically anxiety- or threat-related, such as fear, disease, cancer, death, failure, grief, or pathetic. The words are written in colored ink, and the subject is asked to name the color of the ink and ignore the content of the words. Emotional interference is assumed when the time it takes to name the colors of the threat words is longer than the time it takes to name the colors of neutral words (Algom, Chajut, & Lev , 2004). Applied to neuroticism, the idea is that high-N persons have an attentional bias such that certain stimuli (the threat words) are more salient, or attention-grabbing. The threat words should be more dif ficult for them to ignore when naming the colors Therefore, neuroticism should correlate with response time to name the colors, when the words refer to threat (e.g., disease, failure).

A thorough review of this literature was published by Williams, Mathews, and MacLeod 1996. These researchers reviewed more than 50 experiments that have used a version of the emotion Stroop task. Many of the studies show that high-N groups (or participants with anxiety disorder) are often slower to name colors of anxiety- and threat-related words, compared with the color naming of control, nonemotion words. The explanation given for this ef fect is that the emotion words capture the attention of the high-N participants, but not of the low-N participants.

In summary, neuroticism is a trait that relates to a variety of negative emotions, including anxiety, fear, worry, annoyance, irritation, and distress. Persons high in neu-roticism are unstable in their moods, are easily upset, and take longer to recover after being upset. There are both biological and cognitive theories about the causes of negative emotions in neuroticism, and each has some supportive evidence in the scientific literature. One particularly well-known finding concerns the tendency of perso high in neuroticism to complain of health problems. In addition, high-N persons are thought to be on the lookout for threatening information; they pay more attention to negative cues and events in life, however minor , compared with more emotionally stable persons.

Depression and Melancholia Depression is another traitlike dimension. In this chapter, we will cover only a small part of what is known about depression. There is a huge body of literature on the topic of depression, as is befitting a psychologica disorder that is estimated to strike 20 percent of the people in the United States at some time in their lives (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). There are entire books on depression, graduate courses devoted to this topic, and clinicians who specialize primarily in the treatment of depression. There are thought to be many varieties of depression (e.g., Rusting & Larsen, 1998a), and researchers are attempting to categorize the kinds of depressi

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