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* This new Greater Good section, Research Digests, offers short summaries of recent studies on happiness, compassion, altruism, and more. Quick to read, easy to digest—we read the research so you don’t have to!


The Benefits of Spontaneous Apologies

"Young Children's Apologies to Their Siblings"

Social Development, Vol 19(1), February 2010, 170-186.

Apologizing to a sibling can carry nice benefits for young kids—but not if their parents force them to. Children ages two to six apologized more often on their own than on their parents suggestion. Spontaneous apologies were more common among older kids. As kids got older, they were also more likely to reconcile after an apology. By age six, children showed sensitivity to how sincere the apologies were, responding more positively to those that were spontaneous rather than required by parents. —Kat Saxton

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The Richness of Daily Activities

"Accounting for the Richness of Daily Activities. "

Psychological Science, 20(8), August, 1000-1008.

In this study, people reported how much they felt that their day’s activities were pleasurable or rewarding. The most pleasurable activities on average were outdoor activities, watching TV, exercising, and socializing, whereas the most rewarding activities were work and volunteering. Remarkably, the kinds of activities people performed on a certain day accounted for more than half of how much pleasure and reward they felt that day. So by changing what we do with our time, we might be able to create sustained improvements in how much we enjoy and feel rewarded by life. —Laura Saslow

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Children’s Social Relationships and Happiness

"The Contribution of Social Relationships to Children’s Happiness"

Journal of Happiness Studies. Vol 10(3), June 2009, 329-349.

Researchers measured the connection between happiness and social relationships in 9- to 12-year-old children, finding that positive social interactions with family and friends—such as feeling like an important member of their family or frequently visiting friends—increased happiness. Negative social interactions with others—such as feeling left out or being mean to other people—decreased happiness. This offers evidence that social relationships are significantly associated with happiness among children, in ways already documented among adolescents and adults. —Erica Lee

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Positive Illusions and Relationship Satisfaction

"A Test of Positive Illusions Versus Shared Reality Models of Relationship Satisfaction among Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Couples."

Journal of Applied Social Psychology. 39(6). June 2009. 1417-1431.

“Positive illusions” occur when people see their partners as more physically attractive than their partners see themselves. Such positive illusions have been associated with heterosexual couples’ satisfaction with their relationships. The authors of this paper analyzed data on 6,685 American couples to study whether the same is true for gay and lesbian couples. They found further evidence of the upside to positive illusions among lesbian, gay, and heterosexual co-habitating and married couples. Among all these groups, people who view their partners as more desirable than the partners see themselves tend to be more satisfied with their relationships. —Aaron Shaw


Racism and Obesity

"Perceived Racism in Relation to Weight Change in the Black Women's Health Study"

Annals of Epidemiology. Vol 19(6), June 2009, 379-387.

African-American women who said they experienced higher levels of racism gained more weight over eight years than African-American women who were exposed to less discrimination. The results suggest that experiences of racism may contribute to the disproportionate amount of obesity among black women in the United States. —Kat Saxton

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