Happiness research

In the article, “The New Science of HAPPINESS” the authors attempt to summarize and analyze recent research into the comcept of what makes a person happy and concludes with a series of questions used in happiness research. The debate hinges on whether happiness is best defined using the exact reactions to a specific event or a later recollection of the events and whether happiness is determined minute by minute or in the long view. (Wallis, 2005). The three most important terms used in the paper involve happiness, depression and mental illness.

Happiness, for the purpose of the paper, is defined as life satisfaction, both overall and with specific events. Depression and mental illness are used in the article, but not defined. Mental illness should refer specifically to the function of the brain that is not within social and scientific norms and depression should refer to a form of mental illness in which the subject loses sight of the value of life and is unwilling or unable to take positive action for the improvement of their own condition.

In my opinion, the article uses all three terms very loosely and not properly within the context of psychology. The article uses depression to describe a state absent of happiness and happiness ot describe a state absent of othe negative emotion. It fails to define mental illness at all. According to the article, research shows that when people are polled at random intervals in a day, their specific reaction to a situation may be different than their remembered level of happiness (Wallis, 2005).

Furthermore, the article quotes a survey by Time magazine asking people what makes them happy and only 9 percent say their spouse, yet in a follow up question 63 percent express satisfaction with their spouse (Wallis, 2005). The article asserts and the survey agrees that 51 percent of people take some amount of happiness from praying or meditating (Wallis, 2005). This is a time magazine article, with data from a Time magazine survey and it appears that the reporters chose information that backs up what their poll said.

Though the research of several prominent members of the American Pscyological Association was quoted, the article seems tobe little more than a vehicle for the magazine to show off its poll and attempt to give it credence. Furthermore, the hard evidence they site is from a research poll which they claim has a margin of error of three percent. We are given no insights into their methodology or criteria and therefore the information must be suspect.

The writers of the article include an anecdotal explanation of the difference between perceived happiness and actual happiness. The example is of an Italian vacation. While a person is likely to remember the entire vacation as good, depending of high points and how it ended, a specifc survey of events during the vacation might disover specific incidences of unhappiness, frustration or discomfort. The anecdote is among the most useful information in the article as it demonstrates clearly the hypothesis that the minutia may be bad an the overall experience happy.

An alternative explanation for this theory of remembering things as a whole as good when the sum of their parts may not have been may be twofold: One, we have been conditioned to think of the positives. Even after a horrible vacation, we are likely to point out the good pieces. Two, it is a form of deliberate self-delusion that we want things to be happier than they were. I disagreed with the assertion early in the article that religion is one of the things that makes people happiest.

This could be because I am not particularly religious, but also because the survey said only 61 percent of the people survey identified religion as a top factor in their happiness. It was the lowest rated thing on the list of happiness factors, yet the test of the article claimed that more people got satisfaction from religion than from their children which does not hold true when viewing the survey results.

Works Cited

Wallis, C. , Coady, E. , Cray, D. , Park, A. , & Ressner, J. (2005, January 17). The New Science of HAPPINESS. Time, 165(3), A2-A9. Retrieved October 20, 2007, from Academic Search Elite database

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