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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.


Why to Take Your New Year’s Resolutions Seriously

"Eudaimonic Growth: Narrative Growth Goals Predict Increases in Ego Development and Subjective Well-Being 3 Years Later"

Bauer, J.J.; McAdams, D.P. Developmental Psychology, July 2010, Vol. 46 (4), 761-772.

A reason to take your New Year’s resolutions seriously: This study found that people who set goals for personal growth actually showed increases in psychological well-being, regardless of whether those goals were actually achieved. Researchers asked college freshman to write about two of their major goals, then revisited those same students in their senior year. They found the students who set intellectual-growth goals (e.g., goals to explore or learn) were more likely to develop in maturity three years later. In addition, students who wrote about social or emotional goals (e.g., goals to improve as a person or gain a meaningful relationship) showed greater life satisfaction and positive emotion three years later. These results show that simply thinking about goals, no matter whether these goals are attained, can predict personal growth and development later in life. —Janelle Caponigro

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A Positive Mood Boosts Creativity

"Better Mood and Better Performance: Learning Rule-Described Categories Is Enhanced by Positive Mood"

Nadler, R. T.; Rabi, R.; Minda, J. P. Psychological Science, Vol. 21 (12), December 2010, 1770 –1776.

Could 30 Rock help you perform better at work? This study found that people are better at creative problem solving when they’re in a good mood than when they’re in a bad mood or just feeling so-so. In the study, participants were first put in a good mood by listening to some uplifting music (a stirring Mozart piece), then watching a funny YouTube video (a laughing baby); other participants were put in a bad mood by listening to some sad music and watching a depressing video, while still others were exposed to music and video that didn’t affect their mood. Then they had to master a tricky cognitive task that required flexible thinking. Participants in a positive mood performed better than participants in a negative or neutral mood on the task. —Jason Marsh

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