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The Happiness Hypothesis

Page history last edited by Chris Yeh 12 years, 8 months ago

The Happiness Hypothesis

by Jonathan Haidt

 

Note: This summary is incomplete. I seem to have lost most of my notes; what follows are two pages worth recovered from a notepad I found in an old travel bag.


 

Why Meaning?

1) An era of abundance and freedom from the struggle to survive

2) Generational aging of the baby boom

3) Overwhelming information and choice

 

The World Values Survey: 58% of Americans think often about the meaning and purpose of life

 

Neuroscience shows the physiological basis for religion:

"Studies of our biological constitution make it increasingly clear that we are social creatures of meaning, who crave a sense of coherence and purpose. Yet, our modern way of life seems to provide fewer and fewer opportunities to engage in the group life that satisfies these human needs--indeed, many of its structures and institutions stunts these very needs."

--Steven R. Quartz

http://www.edge.org/q2003/q03_quartz.html

 

  • Duke: Regular prayers have lower blood pressure
  • Johns Hopkins: Attending religious services cuts the risk of death from heart disease, suicide, and cancer
  • Dartmouth: Faith & prayer are an indicator of survival among open-heart surgery patients

 

Mitnoff and Denton: "A Spiritual Audit of Corporate America"

 

Robert White: "The Effectance Motive"

  • The need or drive to develop competence through interactive with and controlling one's environment
  • "Joy's soul lies in the doing" --Shakespeare

 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: "Vital Engagement"

  • A relationship to the world that is characterized by experience of flow and by meaning

 

Csikszentmihalyi, Howard Gardner, William Damon: When doing good matches up with doing well, a profession is healthy

 

People gain a sense of meaning when their lives cohere across the three levels of their existence:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Sociocultural

 

David Sloan Wilson: Group Selection (competition between groups)

  • Cultural evolution is faster than genetic selection (but both intertwine)
  • Religions always serve to coordinate and orient people toward each other and toward the group as a whole
    • Trust and trade are enhanced
    • Respect for rules is enhanced (via sacredness and ostracism)
    • Twin studies suggest a particular gene is associated with a stronger tendency to have religious and self-transcendent experiences
  • There is no contradiction with religions that preach love but cause hate. Group selection enhances cooperation within the group to better compete with other groups.

 

Mystical experience = when the sense of self is turned off

  • No representation of the body's boundaries
  • No fixed location in 3-dimensional space
  • Often induced by rituals with repetitive movement and chanting

 

How it all fits together

  • Individual selection = selfishness
  • Group selection = the longing to lose the self in something larger
  • Social creatures = We need love and attachment
  • Industrious = Effectance and vital engagement

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