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* This Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, empathy, compassion, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we review the research so you don’t have to! Subscribe to the Research Digests RSS feed to receive future digests.


Global Consensus: Money Doesn’t Bring Happiness

"The Happiness-Income Paradox Revisited"

Easterlin, R., et. al. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 2010, Vol. 107 (52), 22463-22468.

This comprehensive study suggests that over time, happiness does not increase as a country’s income increases. Researchers looked at the relationship between happiness and gross domestic product, both across time (10 years) and across cultures, examining people in 37 countries across five continents. They found that there is no significant relationship between higher rates of economic growth and an overall increase in life satisfaction. The authors argue that, given the consistent results across a wide range of countries, their results strongly debunk the idea that money brings greater happiness. —Raymond Firmalino

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How Our Parents Affect Our Romantic Relationships

"Recovering From Conflict in Romantic Relationships: A Developmental Perspective"

Salvatore, J.E., et. al. Psychological Science, Vol. 22 (3), March 2011, 376-383.

This study suggests that the connection we form with our parents as infants may determine how we resolve conflicts with our romantic partner as an adult. Researchers measured how securely attached infants were to their parents at 12 and 18 months of age, meaning how much they related to their parents as a trusted source of comfort and security. The researchers followed up with these children years later, when they were 20 or 21 years old, asking them and their current romantic partner to tackle the most significant problem in their relationship. After a short cool-down period, they were rated on how well they bounced back from the conflict by the amount of positive feedback they gave their partner; they also reported their overall relationship satisfaction. The results show that people rated as securely attached to their parents in infancy were more likely to bounce back positively from their romantic conflicts later in life—and, in turn, displayed higher levels of relationship satisfaction. The researchers conclude that early development plays a significant role in post-conflict coping methods later in life, which affect overall relationship satisfaction. —Bernie Wong

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Does Physical Activity Equal Political Activity?

"Participating in Politics Resembles Physical Activity: General Action Patterns in International Archives, United States Archives, and Experiment"

Noguchi, K., Handley, I.M., & Albarracin, D. Psychological Science, Vol. 22 (2), February 2011, 235-242.

With the next presidential election already looming, how can we encourage more people to become politically active? This study finds that the more active people are in general, the more active they’ll be in politics. Surveying individuals in 69 countries and 49 states in the U.S., researchers measured how impulsive and outgoing people were, their pace of life, their stimulant drug use, and their newspaper, telephone, and Internet usage. They also examined voter turnout, interest in politics, and other acts of political participation in these countries and regions. Additionally, in a separate experiment, participants completed word fragments, some of which were “action-oriented” words (e.g., “engage”) while others were neutral (e.g. “tooth”) or “stop” words (e.g. “unable”). Researchers then measured whether these words affected people’s intent to participate in an upcoming election.

The results show that countries and regions with greater levels of physical activity have higher levels of political participation; what’s more, simply priming people with action words makes them want to get more involved in politics. —Bernie Wong

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