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Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Michael Pollan on the Political Situation of Food

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 29, 2012

Host Harry Kreisler welcomes writer Michael Pollan for a discussion of the agricultural industrial complex that dominates consumer choices about what to eat. He explores the origins, evolution and consequences of this system for the nations health and environment. He highlights the role of science, journalism, and politics in the development of a diet that emphasizes nutrition over food. Pollan also sketches a reform agenda and speculates on how a movement might change Americas eating habits. He also talks about science writing, the rewards of gardening, and how students might prepare for the future.

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Distribution, Education, Food and Drug Law, Ideology, Marketing, Politics, Video | 2 Comments »

Marion Nestle on The Situation of Our Food

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 28, 2012

Related Situationist posts:

For more on the situation of eating, see Situationist contributors Adam Benforado, Jon Hanson, and David Yosfion’s law review article Broken Scales: Obesity and Justice in America.  For a listing of numerous Situaitonist posts on the situational sources of obesity, click here.

Posted in Choice Myth, Deep Capture, Environment, Food and Drug Law, History, Marketing, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Good, the Bad, and the Baby

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 19, 2012

From 60 Minutes:

The above video is from “The Baby Lab” which aired on Nov. 18, 2012.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Altruism, Evolutionary Psychology, Morality, Video | Leave a Comment »

Baumeister on the Situation of Self-Regulation

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 15, 2012

From YoungMinds:

How do we learn self-control as children?What bolsters will power? What undermines it?Is self-control a skill that can be practiced and taught?How can we encourage young people to perform to their potential?

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

Citizens United Cartography

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 7, 2012

From NPR:

Explore political ad spending through creative cartography. This animated map shows where superPACs and other outside groups spent their money — over a six-month period during the general election — to air political ads aimed at influencing the presidential race.

Read the related NPR article here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Ideology, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

Citizens United Primer

Posted by The Situationist Staff on November 3, 2012

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Deep Capture, Distribution, Politics, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Not Helping

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 21, 2012

From Youtube:

A man tries to help a woman being attacked, but instead he is stabbed and left to die in the streets of New York. As Paul Johnson reports, over 20 people pass the dying man and do nothing to help. A look at the various cases in the U.S. and Canada where bystanders could have saved people but chose to look the other way.

In the video below, Situationist Contributor, Philip Zimbardo describes the bystander effect and introduces an excellent series of demonstrations of the effect.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Morality, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

Rebecca Saxe on the State of Cognitive Neuroscience

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 26, 2012

Rebecca Saxe is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. She is also an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. She is known for her research on the neural basis of social cognition.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Marketing, Neuroscience, Video | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Privilege

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 24, 2012

From

Shamus Khan (Columbia University) discusses his C. Wright Mills award-winning book, Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School, and how elite schools “convert birthright into credentials” for privileged students.

Here is a summary of the book:

As one of the most prestigious high schools in the nation, St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, has long been the exclusive domain of America’s wealthiest sons. But times have changed. Today, a new elite of boys and girls is being molded at St. Paul’s, one that reflects the hope of openness but also the persistence of inequality.

In Privilege, Shamus Khan returns to his alma mater to provide an inside look at an institution that has been the private realm of the elite for the past 150 years. He shows that St. Paul’s students continue to learn what they always have–how to embody privilege. Yet, while students once leveraged the trappings of upper-class entitlement, family connections, and high culture, current St. Paul’s students learn to succeed in a more diverse environment. To be the future leaders of a more democratic world, they must be at ease with everything from highbrow art to everyday life–from Beowulf to Jaws–and view hierarchies as ladders to scale. Through deft portrayals of the relationships among students, faculty, and staff, Khan shows how members of the new elite face the opening of society while still preserving the advantages that allow them to rule.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Education, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Agricultural Situation of Climate Change

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 16, 2012

From TEDxTC:

A skyrocketing demand for food means that agriculture has become the largest driver of climate change, biodiversity loss and environmental destruction. At TEDxTC Jonathan Foley shows why we desperately need to begin “terraculture” — farming for the whole planet.

Jonathan Foley studies complex environmental systems and their affects on society. His computer models have shown the deep impact agriculture is having on our planet.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Environment, Food and Drug Law, Video | Leave a Comment »

The Interior Situational Effect of Ads

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 14, 2012

Video from UMISR:

Brain scans showing neural reactions to pro-health messages can predict if you’ll keep that resolution to quit smoking more accurately than you yourself can. In this video, ISR researcher Emily Falk talks about her current and future research.

From APS (regarding Psychological Science article by Emily Falk, Elliot T. Berkman, and Matt Lieberman):

Brain scans of a small group of people can predict the actions of entire populations, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The findings are relevant to political advertising, commercial market research, and public health campaigns, and broaden the use of brain imaging from a diagnostic to a predictive tool.

As opposed to the wisdom of the crowd, the study suggests that the neurological reactions of a few – reactions that people are not even consciously aware of, and that differ from the opinions they express – can predict the responses of many other people to ad campaigns promoting specific behaviors.

“Brain responses to ads forecasted the ads’ success when other predictors failed,” said Emily Falk, first author of the study, which appears online in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Falk directs the University of Michigan Communication Neuroscience Lab.

Falk conducted the study with Elliot Berkman at the University of Oregon and Matthew Lieberman at UCLA. The researchers were supported by the National Science Foundation and by the National Institutes of Health.

“If people are making decisions based on what focus groups tell them, here’s an important brain region saying, ‘No, spend your money a different way,’” Matthew Lieberman said. “If I were deciding on an advertising campaign, I would want to know which ads are activating this region the most — that is where I would want to spend my money.”

“Our findings could help design better health campaigns. This is a key step in reducing the number of smokers and reducing deaths from cancer, heart disease, and other smoking-related illnesses,” Falk said.

The findings might also help produce more effective political campaign ads, and provide a neural roadmap to why some videos, fashions, behaviors, and ideas go viral, moving from one person to many thousands of others via social media.

For the study, the researchers recruited 31 heavy smokers with a strong desire to quit, and examined their neural responses to three anti-smoking ad campaigns, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). All the ads directly urged viewers to call the National Cancer Institute’s tobacco quit line (1-800-QUIT-NOW).

Following the fMRI, participants rated the effectiveness of the ads they had just viewed in a variety of ways. The researchers compared their brain scans to their reports on the ads’ effectiveness.

To obtain population-level measures, the researchers compared the number of calls to the tobacco quit-line in the month before and after each media campaign first aired in three different media markets.

When asked what they thought of the ads, participants’ rated Campaign B the highest, followed by Campaign A and then Campaign C. Industry experts familiar with the campaigns also disliked Campaign C. The three campaigns used very different strategies. Raters found Campaign C annoying and guessed that it would be ineffective. By contrast, Campaigns A and B resonated with participants, but in the end were less effective in actually driving calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

But brain scans, which focused on the medial pre-frontal cortex, an area of the brain identified in earlier studies as linked to positive responses to persuasive messages, showed a completely different order, with Campaign C eliciting the strongest response.

At the population level, each ad campaign led to increases in call volume to the quit-smoking line, compared with a no-media control month before the launch of each campaign. The increases ranged from 2.8 to 32 times higher than the control month, and the researchers found that Campaign C led to the highest increases, followed by Campaign B and lastly Campaign A — just the opposite of the participants’ guesses but precisely the same as their brain scans showed.

“It seems that the brain is picking up on important features of these ads, but we’re not sure what these features are yet,” Falk said. “We’re doing follow up studies now to translate what the brain is telling us about how to design better messages.”

This new research represents “the first thing you could call a neural focus group,” Lieberman said.

One reason focus groups can be misleading, he said, is that people often do not know what motivates their own behavior.

“Our brain is built to generate reasons for our actions,” Lieberman said, “and we think the reasons we come up with must be true. We believe our own reasons with an intensity that is out of proportion to their accuracy. In this study, we are bypassing people’s self-reports and getting at a form of hidden wisdom in the brain.”

“These findings could help us improve the success of campaigns,” Falk emphasized. “In the long run, we hope this will help us fight cancer and other preventable diseases.”

* * *

The article’s citation is as follows: Falk, E. B., Berkman, E. T., & Lieberman, M. D. (2012). From neural responses to population behavior: Neural focus group predicts population level media effects. Psychological Science, 23, 439-445. 

Go to the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory to download a pdf of the article.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Implicit Associations, Marketing, Neuroscience, Video | Leave a Comment »

Michael Norton on Pro-Social Spending

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 12, 2012

From

Michael Norton shares fascinating research on how money can, indeed buy happiness — when you don’t spend it on yourself. Listen for surprising data on the many ways pro-social spending can benefit you, your work, and (of course) other people.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Distribution, Life, Positive Psychology, Video | 1 Comment »

The Situation of Sexual Assault at Boston University

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 10, 2012

A  report, commissioned by Boston University President after two hockey players were charged with sexual assault, found a “culture of sexual entitlement” in the hockey program and a lack of reporting and discipline against star players.  In effect, the report concluded that the situation contributed significantly to the behavior which put many BU students at risk.  Here are some excerpts:

On March 7, 2012, Boston University President Robert A. Brown established and charged the Men’s Ice Hockey Task Force with the responsibility to review the culture and climate of the Boston University men’s hockey program and to provide a thoughtful and impartial assessment. The task force was initiated in response to criminal charges, which included sexual assault being brought against two members of the men’s ice hockey team within a three-month period. These charges raised serious questions about whether the culture and climate of the ice hockey program contributed in some way to the alleged actions of the two individuals. The University chose to investigate these questions with the understanding that if evidence of systemic problems emerged, then appropriate changes would be made to ensure that our men’s ice hockey program is held to the same high standards to which we hold all members of our university community.

Of primary concern was the question of whether inherent aspects of the program’s culture and climate could have helped to foster the actions that led to the criminal charges. For those unfamiliar with Boston University athletic programs, the men’s hockey team, which has won a total of five national championships, has garnered substantial national recognition and is often among the top university ice hockey programs in the nation. Its visibility both on and off campus exceeds that of any other BU athletic program.

It is essential to note that the task force was not asked to conduct an assessment of the guilt or innocence of the two individuals who were charged with sexual assault. Neither was the task force asked to evaluate the judgments that were rendered in these two cases by Boston University’s Judicial Affairs, which has the responsibility for adjudicating alleged violations of the Student Code of Responsibilities. Those processes are the purview of the State of Massachusetts and the Boston University Dean of Students, respectively. In fact, prosecutors have since dropped the criminal charges that were filed against one of the individuals, while the other individual has pleaded guilty to reduced charges of assault and battery.

* * *

Our assessment of the information and data we gathered and reviewed concerning the Boston University men’s ice hockey program can be considered in two broad categories. The first includes the full range of university structures, processes, and procedures that govern all aspects of the men’s ice hockey program in particular, and competitive athletics at Boston University in general. Our conclusion is that there are a number of important structures and processes that are failing to achieve the full level and quality of oversight of the men’s ice hockey program that is expected and appropriate at a major university. These failings include issues of institutional control and governance structure at the highest levels, as well as shortcomings in leadership at the team level. Further, the absence of a few routine, transparent, and systematic processes that would establish clear expectations for players’ behavior has created a culture in which important aspects of oversight for our student-athletes’ behavior—beyond performance as a team member—has fallen inappropriately to the coaching staff.

The second broad category of findings relates to issues surrounding the social and sexual interactions of the men’s ice hockey players with the broader student community. Our assessment has shown that a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players on the men’s ice hockey team, stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus. This culture of sexual entitlement, as evidenced by frequent sexual encounters with women absent an emotional relationship or on-going commitment, can also involve unprotected sex. This culture is actively supported by a small subset of BU’s undergraduate population. The absence of systematic processes for sexual assault prevention training for members of the men’s ice hockey team, and for BU students more broadly, contributes to behaviors that place many University students at risk. Substance abuse, including heavy alcohol use in particular, can be an important part of students’ social and sexual culture. Institutional practices and educational efforts relating to sexual health and substance abuse—for the men’s ice hockey players in particular, and for the undergraduate student body in general—do not provide sufficient information or guidance to our students.

* * *

Read the entire report, including fourteen recommendations here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Education, Situationist Sports, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Nancy Gertner on The Situation of Dispositionist Criminal Sentencing

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 8, 2012

From Cognoscenti:

There is a canned, formulaic newspaper story about any criminal case. It can be repeated in every prosecution, no matter what the crime, no matter who the defendant.

Here’s how it goes: Judge X sentenced defendant Y to five years (or whatever the number). The prosecutor argued for 10 (or higher than the number the judge gave). The victim’s family is appalled. When interviewed, they stridently proclaim their outrage at the judge. The press then echoes that sentiment.

All concerned assume that the right sentence is the one the prosecutor wanted or the victim demanded. So when the judge sentences the defendant to less, they cry foul. Another lenient judge! Another liberal! Another blow against the “tough on crime” mentality!

Never do you see the opposite: a columnist decrying a sentence that was too high or a reporter noting that these sentencing lengths are just arbitrary numbers – five, 10, 15, 20 – without any relationship to what works to deter crime, what is cost effective, etc. And they are “just” numbers that will inevitably increase over time, precisely because they are contentless.

They do not reflect expert opinion about proportionality — for example, measuring relative sentences across crime categories or comparing nonviolent drug sentences to sentences for violent crime. They don’t consider alternative approaches. They don’t evaluate recidivism, whether drug treatment programs in certain instances will work better than incarceration.

These numbers only reflect the public’s and the district attorney’s spleen – and so whatever the number was before the sentencing of this defendant, they “must” be higher in the next case, with the next defendant. There is, in short, no end.

Popular punitiveness trumped everything, whether or not it bore any relationship to good public policy.

We lead the world in imprisonment not just by a little — but by several orders of magnitude. Our nearest competitors are Rwanda and China, hardly good company. And the racial figures are even worse: At the end of 2010, black men had an incarceration rate of 3,059 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 U.S. black male residents. This rate was almost seven times higher than the incarceration rate for white men (456 per 100,000).

Three decades ago, we considered rehabilitation and specific deterrence to be more important than retribution. And while there were unquestionably problems with that approach, at the very least it enabled a discussion about what punishments made sense to ensure public safety, to minimize recidivism and to balance all of the purposes of sentencing. In addition, it permitted criminal justice experts in various fields – including judges – to participate in a meaningful discussion about crime.

But in the 1980s rehabilitation was discredited. On the eve of sentencing reform in the federal courts, one scholar wrote: “What works? Nothing!” – although he subsequently amended his views. The sentencing focus shifted for the most part to a single purpose: retribution. And for that purpose there were new “experts”: the public. If the most important question had become, “What punishment fits this crime?” Everyone could weigh in.

And not just the public. By the late 1980s, crime issues were part and parcel of the political debate — think of the role of the Willie Horton ads in the 1988 presidential election. A decade later came the shock jocks and 24/7 pundits. What the public thinks about the crime, and thus what the criminal “deserves,” came to be shaped — indeed inflamed — by the press.

Meanwhile, criminal justice experts were sidelined. As Duke University law professor Sara Sun Beale argued in the aptly titled 1997 article “What’s Law Got to Do With It?” — criminal justice policy is largely driven by the media. The good news of falling crime rates over the past two decades was rarely reported; the nightly news famously reflected the principle, “if it bleeds, it leads.” The result? Popular punitiveness trumped everything, whether or not it bore any relationship to good public policy.

Some of the blame surely goes to the media. Take the case of Kenneth Belew of Somerville, Mass. On the evening of April 21, 2011, after drinking too much, Belew got behind the wheel and lost control of the car. Of the five passengers – two tragically died. The judge sentenced Belew to five years; the prosecutor had wanted eight to 10.

A Boston Globe columnist excoriated the judge in all too familiar terms: He was insensitive and unduly lenient for not imposing the sentence the prosecutor wanted. But what the prosecutor wanted was hardly the measure of fairness. The presumptive range of sentences under the Massachusetts Sentencing Guidelines was about three and a half to five and a half years.

Those guidelines were established by a Sentencing Commission consisting of prosecutors, defense counsel, public safety and correctional officials, and victim-witness advocates. And the judge accompanied the sentence with an elaborate recitation of the reasons for the sentence — on the record and in public.

The prosecutor cannot be so monitored. He picks a number and does not have to explain it, beyond justifying it in the particular case. There are no public, transparent guidelines for prosecutors, no Sentencing Commission, no standards. He cannot be easily reviewed to see if he is biased, choosing mandatory minimums for defendants of color more than for those who are white, or simply going with his gut.

Recently, a Suffolk County prosecutor criticized the Supreme Judicial Court for not requiring a judge whom the prosecutor believed to be too lenient to disclose his personal notes, records and diaries to justify his sentences. When was the last time a prosecutor was required to disclose why he chose to prosecute a defendant, or picked a given charge, or recommended a given sentence? The answer is never.

And, to a shocking degree, the prosecutor is picking numbers out of the air. Twenty years ago, we considered five years a very long sentence. In most European countries that is still the case. But now, in the United States, we increase sentences by fives. It’s like a betting game. Five does not send a message if it is what the defense lawyer wants. OK, I’ll raise you five more. Why five? Why not 10?

When sentences had to bear some relationship to outcomes – what worked to prevent recidivism, for example – there were limits. With retribution, there are few.

To be sure, pundits are beginning to write about the unfairness of mandatory minimum sentences. They are beginning to notice the disproportionate sentences for African Americans and Hispanics. And in this depressed economy, the media is beginning to acknowledge that lengthy sentences, particularly for nonviolent drug offenders, are not remotely cost effective.

But those general observations are rarely reflected in media coverage of individual cases. And individual cases, particularly the celebrated ones, are what drive the legislative debate (think Megan’s or Melissa’s laws) – not a general analysis of the needs of the criminal justice system or the lack of a relationship between the declining crime rate and our ever increasing imprisonment rate.

That is the only explanation of why, just when punitive states like Texas and Mississippi are repealing “three strikes” laws, Massachusetts just passed one, after two highly publicized and tragic crimes: the murders of Melissa Gosule and Officer Jack Maguire. Three strikes is nothing more than a baseball metaphor – not social policy.

Read the entire article, including the 5 myths echoed in the press and among legislators, here.

Related Situationist posts:

To review a collection of Situationist posts discussing Nancy Gertner‘s work, click here.

Posted in Law, Video | Leave a Comment »

Kathleen Vohs on Money’s Situational Effects

Posted by The Situationist Staff on September 4, 2012

From :

Money changes people’s motivations — increasing their sense of self sufficiency and even making them keep a greater physical distance from others. After focusing on money, individuals work longer before asking for help, are less helpful to others, and prefer to play and work alone. Kathleen D. Vohs presented at the “Small Steps, Big Leaps: The Science of Getting People to Do the Right Thing” research briefing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, co-sponsored by the Center for Social Innovation.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Altruism, Positive Psychology, Social Psychology, Video | 1 Comment »

Jonathan Haidt on the Situation of Religious Beliefs

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 22, 2012

From TED:

Psychologist Jonathan Haidt asks a simple, but difficult question: why do we search for self-transcendence? Why do we attempt to lose ourselves? In a tour through the science of evolution by group selection, he proposes a provocative answer.

Jonathan Haidt studies how — and why — we evolved to be moral. By understanding more about our moral roots, his hope is that we can learn to be civil and open-minded.

A small sample of related Situationist posts:

Posted in Altruism, Conflict, Distribution, Ideology, Morality, Politics, Social Psychology, Video | Leave a Comment »

Compliance – The Movie

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 20, 2012

From :

When a police officer tells you to do something, you do it. Right?

Inspired by true events, COMPLIANCE tells the chilling story of just how far one might go to obey a figure of authority. On a particularly busy day at a suburban Ohio fast food joint, high-strung manager Sandra (Ann Dowd (Garden State) receives a phone call from a police officer saying that an employee, a pretty young blonde named Becky (newcomer Dreama Walker) has stolen money from a customer. Convinced she’s only doing what’s right, Sandra commences the investigation, following step-by-step instructions from the officer at the other end of the line, no matter how invasive they become. As we watch, we ask ourselves two questions: “Why don’t they just say no?” and the more troubling, “Am I certain I wouldn’t do the same?”

The second feature from director Craig Zobel (the man behind the 2007 Sundance hit Great World of Sound), COMPLIANCE recounts this riveting nightmare in which the line between legality and reason is hauntingly blurred. The cast delivers startlingly authentic performances that make the appalling events unfolding onscreen all the more difficult to watch — but impossible to turn away from. Delving into the complex psychology of this real-life story, COMPLIANCE proves that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Why isn’t it easy to “just say no….”

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Choice Myth, Morality, Social Psychology, Video | 2 Comments »

Dan Ariely on the Situation of Dishonesty

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 18, 2012

From

Dan Ariely visits the RSA to examine the mechanisms at work behind dishonest behaviour, and the implications this has for all aspects of our social and political lives.

Listen to the podcast of the full event including audience Q&A here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Behavioral Economics, Morality, Social Psychology, Video | 1 Comment »

David Eagleman’s Big Thoughts on Synesthesia

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 16, 2012

From Big Think:

On a late winter day in 1922, the sound of a gun shot resounded with a loud boom in the hills surrounding the house of three-year-old Edgar Curtis. The sound itself wasn’t out of the ordinary, since the Curtises lived near a firing range. What was extraordinary was the question the boy turned to ask his mother: “What is that big, black noise?”

A few days later, when his mother was putting him to bed, Edgar heard the chirping of a shrill cricket and demanded, “What is that little white noise?” For Edgar, low, rhythmic notes were dark in color. High-pitched sounds were pale, and, researchers later discovered, tones in between were variously red, blue, and purple. A rainbow was “a song.”

Edgar Curtis’ story is an early example in the scientific literature of synesthesia, a neurological phenomenon in which one or more sensory modalities are linked. “There are many different forms,”  says David Eagleman, a neuroscientist known for his ability to garner important insights into the nature of perception and consciousness through idiosyncratic methods. “Essentially, any cross-blending of the senses that you can think of, my colleagues and I have found a case somewhere.”

Watch Big Think interview on synesthesia with neuroscientist David Eagleman:

Read the entire Big Think blog post here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Neuroscience, Video | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Situation of Money-Based Happiness

Posted by The Situationist Staff on August 12, 2012

An excerpt from a recent, terrific New York Times piece by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton:

The notion that money can’t buy happiness has been around a long time — even before yoga came into vogue. But it turns out there is a measurable connection between income and happiness; not surprisingly, people with a comfortable living standard are happier than people living in poverty.

The catch is that additional income doesn’t buy us any additional happiness on a typical day once we reach that comfortable standard. The magic number that defines this “comfortable standard” varies across individuals and countries, but in the United States, it seems to fall somewhere around $75,000. Using Gallup data collected from almost half a million Americans, researchers at Princeton found that higher household incomes were associated with better moods on a daily basis — but the beneficial effects of money tapered off entirely after the $75,000 mark.

Why, then, do so many of us bother to work so hard long after we have reached an income level sufficient to make most of us happy? One reason is that our ideas about the relationship between money and happiness are misguided. In research we conducted with a national sample of Americans, people thought that their life satisfaction would double if they made $55,000 instead of $25,000: more than twice as much money, twice as much happiness. But our data showed that people who earned $55,000 were just 9 percent more satisfied than those making $25,000. Nine percent beats zero percent, but it’s still kind of a letdown when you were expecting a 100 percent return.

Interestingly, and usefully, it turns out that what we do with our money plays a far more important role than how much money we make. Imagine three people each win $1 million in the lottery. Suppose one person attempts to buy every single thing he has ever wanted; one puts it all in the bank and uses the money only sparingly, for special occasions; and one gives it all to charity. At the end of the year, they all would report an additional $1 million of income. Many of us would follow the first person’s strategy, but the latter two winners are likely to get the bigger happiness bang for their buck.

We usually think of having more money as allowing us to buy more and more of the stuff we like for ourselves, from bigger houses to fancier cars to better wine to more finely pixilated televisions. But these typical spending tendencies — buying more, and buying for ourselves — are ineffective at turning money into happiness. A decade of research has demonstrated that if you insist on spending money on yourself, you should shift from buying stuff (TVs and cars) to experiences (trips and special evenings out). Our own recent research shows that in addition to buying more experiences, you’re better served in many cases by simply buying less — and buying for others.

Read the entire article, including their discussion of value of “underindulgence.”

Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (Simon & Schuster), co-authored by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, is due out in the spring of 2013!

Pre-order it on Amazon here.

Related Situationist posts:

Posted in Altruism, Book, Deep Capture, Distribution, Emotions, Illusions, Life, Positive Psychology, Video | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

 
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