How can we help?

You can also find more resources in our Help Center.

Psychology 001

memory, consciousness and thinking, and emotions
Persistence of learning over time through the
encoding, storage and retrieval of information
The "Modal Model of Memory"
Sensory, Working, Longterm
Sensory Memory
very brief memory of immediate
sensory experience
- Iconic Memory
-Echoic Memory
Lasts only 1/3 of a second
Iconic Memory
Iconic memory allows picture to last 1/3 of a
second, increasing processing time
Echoic memory is very similar
- Static "mask" causes picture to last only 1/10 of a
second, decreasing processing time
Working Memory
keeping information consciously
available for current use (to work with it)
Lasts 20 - 30 seconds
Can make it last longer with rehearsal
Can only work with 7 (+/$ 2) units of information at once
(phone numbers)
Types of Rehearsal
-silently recall every other letter. Memorize this sequence: 8249
- Silently recall this sequence backwards
- Visiospatial Sketchpad: Visualize information to rehearse it
- Phonological Loop: Auditorily repeat it over and over to rehearse it
* Both work, but usually one works better for an individual than the other
*Both can be used at the same time to keep the
maximum amount of information in working memory
- People who are really good at doing math in their head
do part of it visually and part auditorily
E.g., (8 + 12 + 32) + (62 - 27) = ?
Auditorily calculate: "Eight plus twelve is twenty, twenty plus
thirty-two is fifty-two"
- Going from working memory to long-term memory
- Success not only determined by amount of rehearsal
- Depends on amount of attention and meaning given to
information in working memory
Recency Effect
last words on list
-Most likely still being rehearsed in working memory
Primacy Effect
first words on list
-First items more likely to be encoded in LTM because they
receive the most attention
False Memory
other words activated the memory of this word
- More difficult to remember words in middle of list, because they don't receive attention or rehearsal
Von Restorff Effect
- we remember was surprises us, because it
draws our attention
- any trick used to increase storage of information into long-term memory
- Most often works by adding meaning
( E.g., How can you better remember this word list?
Elephant, flowers, mailman, fire, apple)
* Make a story
- "The elephant made of flowers gave the mailman
a flaming apple"
*Find meaning in it
- Think about the items as going from non-living to
higher forms of life
Fire " flower " apple " elephant " mailman
* Make an acronym
Forty Men Fight over Eight Apples
Types of Retrieval
* Recognition - do you remember this?
- Always comes with memory cues (E.g., multiple choice)
-offers clues to the right answers and can be solved with process of elimination
* Recall - what do you remember?
- May not come with memory cues ( E.g., written response)
Long Term Memory
Types of long-term memory
1. Declarative/explicit - Can be stated in words
-Semantic memories - facts often cannot remember when or how one learned it
Episodic memories - remembered periods of one's life
2. Non-declarative/implicit - Cannot be stated in words
Learned actions or skills
(E.g., driving a car, setting the table, playing guitar)
- Encoding and storage of declarative LTM"
* Involves hippocampal regions
- Encoding and storage of non-declarative LTM"
* Does not involve these regions
- Where do you think non-declarative LTM is stored?
*Cerebellum and amygdala
*In charge of automatic behavior
* Also Involved in classical conditioning (reflexive behavior)
Bechara et al., 1995
Group A: Participants with intact hippocampus, but
destroyed amygdala ( Recalled order of stimuli, but never showed signs of classical conditioning)
Group B: Participants with intact amygdala, but
destroyed hippocampus (Never recalled order of stimuli, but showed signs of classical conditioning I.e., Wincing to the light even in absence of the sound)
Method: Repeatedly paired flash of light with loud sound, which caused a startle response
- Episodic memories are usually stored and recalled
as stories, with a clearly defined beginning, middle, and ending
*Beginnings and endings get the most attention
*E.g., memories of horseback riding
- Beginnings are remembered because"
* The experience is new, interesting, frightening, etc.
-Endings are remember the most vividly because
* Rehearsed and recalled the most
Inability to recognize or recall info
-Occurs because of failures in...
*storage (LTM)
Forgetting:Poor Encoding
-Encoding doesn't occur unless information is given attention and meaning
** Improve encoding by!
1. Using mnemonics
Find what's interesting
2. If all else fails
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!
- Brute force can work, but it takes much longer
Forgetting:Storage Decay
-All memories eventually decay if they are not
rehearsed, even if they were well encoded
- Then what's the point of learning anything?
* Even if something is forgotten, it will be
much easier to re/encode than it was to encode it the first time
Forgetting: Retrieval Interference
1. Interference - learning similar bits of information makes it hard to know what to retrieve ( E.g., learning Spanish and Italian at the same time can make it difficult to remember either one)
2. Retroactive Interference - learning something new makes it harder to retrieve older information
3. Proactive Interference - older information makes it harder to learn new information
****Sleep protects information from retroactive interference ( E.g., learning psychology and then sociology may cause interference with both, unless you sleep in between)
How To Improve Memory
1. Maximize Encoding-
- Find what's interesting in the material
- How does this apply to my life?
-Use mnemonics if possible
- Rehearse visually and auditory
- Make sure you're not sleepy when encoding (e.g., in class)
- Low arousal = less attention
2. Minimize Decay-
Rehearse every so many days, even if you still know it
3. Minimize Interference-
Don't study related areas back/to/back
How Accurate Are Memories
What becomes encoded in episodic LTM is a verysmall fraction of the experience
*And even what is stored can be
altered by!
-Hearing stories from others
-Mere suggestion
Wilson, Ross 2001
-Asked participants to compare themselves to others now and at previous ages
- Vast majority portrayed themselves to be currently better than most people
- However, majority compared themselves at age 16 to
be average or below the level of 16year old peers
-The further back in time they were asked to remember themselves, the more critical they were of their past self
******Participants asked to come back 2 months later!
-They rated themselves as being better people
even compared to who they were just 2 months
-However, their views of friends/acquaintances
remained the same
-The vast majority of participants foresaw them/
selves as becoming even more fantastic in the
-However, most viewed others as probably
remaining the same in the future
-Most people's view of themselves...
I am constantly advancing and becoming better (Our memory serves to support this self-enhancing view)
BUT, what about everyone else?
Jean Piaget
- Jean Piaget, famous developmental psycho/
logist, was nearly kidnapped at age 2
-Vividly remembered watching his nurse being
attacked by a robber when he was a baby
-When Piaget was 15, the nurse confessed that she had made up the entire story to get attention
- Jean had constructed the memory from others'
early memories
- Brain areas needed to construct long/term
memories are not typically capable of doing so
until age 4
Loftus & Pickrell, 1995
- Contacted relatives of participants and asked for memorable childhood events of the participant
- Constructed a booklet for each participant that
contained 3 true childhood events plus 1 false
childhood event (being lost in a mall)
- After reading each vignette, participants were
asked to recall as much about it as possible or
answer, "I don't remember this."
*** In a follow/up interview a few weeks later, 25 -30% reported remembering the false event
Bruan, Ellis, & Loftus, 2002
- Asked participants whether they had
shaken hands with Bugs Bunny on a childhood trip to Disneyland
-Bugs has never been at Disneyland
- Participants were far more likely to remember the event if they!
-Saw doctored photos of other children with Bugs at Disneyland
-Were asked if they remembered "hugging his furry body and stroking his velvety ears"
*** 30 - 40% remembered this false event
Mazzoni, Loftus, Seitz, & Lynn, 1999
- Participants asked whether or not they had been the victim of childhood bullying
-Participants who answered "no" were selected to participate in a "separate study"
-They were asked to talk about several dreams with a "psychiatrist", who interpreted them as meaning the participant had likely been bullied as a child
**In later interviews, 50% reported increased confidence that they had been bullied in childhood and 25% reported concrete memories of being bullied
False memories are more likely to happen when...
-There seems to be evidence for them
-The individual can vividly imagine the event
-when suggestion came from a "professional" or trusted source
Altering Memory :Loftus
- All participants watched the same video of two cars colliding
-Participants then asked, "How fast were the cars going when they [!]?" ([contacted], [hit], or
--"Contacted" average = 31.8 mph
--"Hit" average = 34.0 mph
--"Smashed" average = 40.8 mph
***One week later participants were asked if they had seen broken glass in the clip
--"Hit" = 14% reported seeing broken glass
--"Smashed" = 32% reported seeing broken glass
False Identification:Schacter
-Participants watched real, but grainy footage of a man come into a store with a gun
- Participants were then asked to pick the man out of a line/up, which did not actually contain the taped man
-Participants were then given either positive feedback
("You picked the right one") or negative feedback
("You picked the wrong one")
* Of participants given POSITIVE feedback!
- 50% stated they had very high confidence in their pick before being given the feedback
-47% stated that the footage was of "excellent
quality" and "clearly" showed the perpetrator
*Of participants given NEGATIVE feedback!
-15% stated they had very high confidence
-0% stated the footed was of excellent quality
Real World Impact
-It is still customary procedure to!
* Give positive feedback when identifying a suspect's photo
-It is often found that!
* Eye witnesses dramatically change their
description of the perpetrator they saw to match
the "suspect" when one is IDed
*The vast majority of witnesses report successively increased certainty in their identification as the trial date near

- Since 1989, 254 people
have been exonerated from crimes due to
uncovered DNA evidence
* For 75%, the leading cause of their conviction
was eye/witness testimony
* Average sentence served = 13 years
- Since 1989, tens of thousands of suspects
have been IDed, but were later exonerated by
DNA evidence
- In July, 1984, Jennifer Thompson was raped, but she paid close attention to her rapist's face
*She escaped and told police
- Several days later, she picked Ronald Cotton's face out of a photo lineup
*Ronald was the suspect: local with a record (although, no violent crimes)
* It took her 5 minutes to do so
- Ronald was convicted based on Jennifer's testimony
- Ronald spent the next 11 years serving a
life sentence
- While watching the OJ Simpson trial, he
heard about DNA testing
- His attorney found DNA in the rape kit
made 11 years ago
- The DNA matched Bobby Poole, another
inmate, also charged with rape in the
same area Ronald had been convicted
- Bobby confessed to the rape of Jennifer
- Even after Bobby Poole was found Jennifer did not recognize Bobby Poole
She still saw the face of Ronald when she
remembered the night she was raped
- Even after Ronald was exonerated on DNA evidence, Jennifer still saw Ronald's face in her nightmares
-Jennifer and Ronald decided to get to
know each other and eventually became friends
She no longer sees Ronald's face when she remembers that night
Conscious Processes
-Mental processes one is aware of
-Less than 5% of the information processed by the brain
Unconscious Processes
-All mental processes that one is not aware of
*What is not actively being paid attention to
*Filtered sensory and motor info, declarative memories, motivations, etc.
-What cannot be paid attention to
*Autonomic sensory and motor info, non-declarative memories, unknown motivations, etc.
Inattentional blindness shows
-We are aware of very little sensory information
-We often do not become aware of things that we do not expect
- Even when looking right at it!
-Would you have seen it if you weren't looking closely?
Power of Unconscious Processes
Bargh, Chen, & Burrows, 1996
-Participants unscrambled letter strings into meaningful words (e.g., APLEP APPLE)
- Half of the participants were exposed to a number of elderly-related words (e.g., wrinkle, grey, wise)
- Participants primed with elderly words mimicked theelderly by walking more slowly when exiting the study

Dijksterhuis et al., 2010
-Similar method caused participants to exhibit poorer recall of the contents of the room they were in

Bargh et al., 1999
-Primed half of the participants with words related to achievement (e.g.,strive, mastery, attain)
- In subsequent Scabble task, experimenters recorded who continued after they said participants could stop
- Participants not primed for achievement = 21% continued
- Participants primed = 55%
Subliminal Priming
Subliminal and supraliminal priming can only affect behavior up to a certain point

Bargh & Ferguson, 2000
- Participants completed computer task in which they were subliminal primed with help-related words
- Exiting the study, participants had to ride down elevator
- In elevator, a confederate dropped their pen case
*** Participants who weren't primed helped pick up the pens 69% of the time
- Primed participants helped 94% of the time
-However, in one condition, the pens were leaking ink
-Primed participants helped only 6% of the time, no more than non-primed participants
- Subliminal messages cannot make us do something we really don't want to (e.g., kill the President)
But I feel consciously in control?
-Sometimes "conscious will" is an illusion
* Brasil-Neto et al., 1992
- Using trans-cranial magnetic stimulation over motor cortex, experimental caused participants to move finger
- Participants had no illusion of conscious control
- Using same technique, experimenter first asked participants to move their finger whenever they felt like it
-Participants experienced illusion of conscious control
2 Factors of an Illusion
1. Priority-thought of even precedes the event
2. Consistency-thought is consistent with the event
Libet 1985
-Asked participants to move their finger
whenever they felt like it, and to say when they had the idea to
- Recorded action potentials in different
areas of the brain
- Pars reported desire to move finger 350 -400 ms before action
- Action potential in motor cortex preceded action by minimum of 550 ms
Allen Hand Syndrome
hand performs action without conscious direction
-can be caused by damage between motor cortex and prefrontal cortex (automatic behavior doesnt require conscious control)
Pronin, Wegner et al., 2006: Magical Thinking
- Pars watched another shoot basketball free-throws
-Half were told to visualize the player succeeding
-Pars whose visualization matched the outcome felt they had "mentally contributed" toward player's performance
Magical Thinking
- Gambling
* During a winning streak in games of chance, most people feel some willful control over winning
*People (especially gamblers) tend to be optimistic, expect to win, and often visualize winning
* If thoughts of winning precede winning illusion of control
- Depressed people tend not to be so optimistic
*They do not show any difference in perceived control during winning vs. losing streak
Then what are we in control of?!
- Lots!
*Things we pay close attention to
*Actions that are deliberative (not
- Is conscious control always a good
*Beginners luck - letting mirror neurons take over
* Choking under pressure - consciously
trying to control normally unconscious action
Dijksterhuis et al., 2004, 2006
- Participants read a selection of apartments listings, with lots of information about each apartment
*Square footage, average electricity/water/gas/cable costs, distance from schools/shopping/factories, etc.
- After reading...
*Group 1 spent 5 minutes thinking about apartments
*Group 2 spent 5 minutes on an unrelated task
*Group 2 made substantially better choices than Group 1

*** Experiment also conducted with car listings
-Half read only about 4 aspects of each car, half
read about 12
-Half deliberated consciously about decision, half did not
Theory of Unconscious Processes
-The conscious mind processes information serially
*One piece at a time
* All information is processed in working memory
-The unconscious mind processes information in
*All at once
*Does not require occupying working memory
*Each pit of information is combined to a general impression (i.e., gut feeling)
Using conscious and unconscious mind
--Conscious processing best for...
* Information of low complexity—that can all be
contained in working memory
* Problem solving, planning for the near future
- -Unconscious processing best for...
*Information of high complexity
*Forming general impression (gut feeling)

*** Trust your gut!
You may not consciously know the right decision
Gut Decisions
-What types of decisions involve processing a lot of information?
*What car or house to buy (i.e., major purchases)
*What college to go to
* What job to take
*What person you should spend the rest of your life with!
- All are best made with your gut
* Most people who end up getting a divorce report that, on their wedding day, they had a "gut feeling" that they shouldn't get married
Conscious doesn't mean thoughtful
By nature, we are "cognitive misers"
- Conscious processing of
information is costly, taking time and energy
* Brain constitutes only 2% of body's mass, but burns 70% of body's blood sugar!
*So we've evolved to make most decision quickly and with little conscious deliberation
Ambady & Rosenthal, 1993
-Participants saw a 30 second silent
video of a college professor teaching
- Based on only that, they significantly
predicted end-of-semester ratings of
the professor
Todorov, Mandisodza et al., 2005
-Participants viewed pictures of senate
candidates for other states
-Just based on the pictures,participants correctly picked the winning candidate 70% of the time
common mental shortcuts
-Even info processed consciously is usually only given as much attention/time as necessary
- Attention is precious—we can only take
in 5% of the total!
-Heuristics work well most of the time
Availability Heuristic
-The easier and more quickly something comes to mind, the more probable it seems
Fear of Flying
-Which seems more dangerous: Flying or driving?
*30 - 40% of people in the U.S. have some fear of flying
* 20% of fliers use alcohol or pills to relax during the flight
- Actual danger...
* Lifetime odds of dying in airplane accident = 0.00003%
* Lifetime odds of dying in car accident = 1%
- But, what about with terrorism?
* People killed during 9/11 terrorist attack = 2,995
*Since 9/11, airline travel has gone down 10-30%
* People killed in cars during the first 3 months after 9/11 = 3,248
Why do so many people fear flying?
-Availability Heuristic - the more vividly and emotionally an event can be imagined, the more probable it seems
* Between airplane crashes and car crashes, which seems like it would be more terrifying?
- The more you think about an even, the more probable it seems
* Which is covered more in the national media?
Availability Heuristic 2nd Example
Winning the lottery
-Common reasons people play?
* "You have to play to win"
* "If they can do it, I can too!"
- It feels they stand a good chance of winning
- But, what if you had to see all of the lotto losers?
* If everyone is given 30 seconds of airtime
*For average California lottery...
* 30 seconds of footage of someone winning
*More than 9 hours of footage of people losing
Health Facts
-Who is most likely to die of a heart attack?
After age 70 = Women 15% more likely than men
- Before age 50 = Women 100% more likely than men
-New England Journal of Medicine
* Most common signs of a heart attack?
Shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, light-headedness
- Between the 2 scenarios, Diana was far more likely to be having a heart attack than David
Availability Heuristic: 3rd Example
When you think heart attack, what first comes to mind?
- For most people (including doctors):
Men and chest pains
- Why?
* More dramatic symptoms (chest-pain) are easier to remember/imagine than less dramatic ones (nausea)
* Media coverage of heart disease often center around the more dramatic symptoms
* Media coverage on health is often biased toward men
-Even doctors often misdiagnose the above scenarios
Representative Heuristic
-When we assume that the right answer is the one that best matches our original expectations
*The answer that best matches
initial expectations is the one we pick
- Once the answer is chosen, we
often don't think about how likely it is
* Called a "seize and freeze" strategy to decision making
Nisbett & Ross, 1980
"A stranger tells you about a person who is short, slim, and likes to read poetry, and then asks you to guess whether this person is more likely to be a professor of classics at an Ivy League university or a truck driver."
* Majority picked ivy league classics professor
*Number of Ivy Leagues schools in U.S. = 8
* Number of truck drivers in U.S. = 3,189,300 in 2008
Universal Emotions
-Each have a signature ..
*facial expression
*behavioral expression
*psychological expression
E.g., disgust
◦ Wrinkling upper lip and nose
◦ Avoidant behavior ("Don't touch that!")
◦ Decreased heartrate, blood pressure, etc.
◦ Across cultures
◦ In newborns
◦ In the congenitally blind
What's so adaptive about emotions?
◦ Emotions drive behavior
* Dives toward pleasure - We want to be happy,
so we seek what makes us happy
*Drives toward safety - We don't want to be
afraid, so we try to avoid things that make us
◦ Emotions drive fairness / compassion
*When there is injustice = Anger = Retribution
*When there is need = Sadness = Helping
◦Helps coordinate group behavior
◦Quickly and easily communicates safety or danger to all surrounding others
Why do we have eyebrows
-To signal emotions over long distances
*aggression/disgust=eyebrows down
-Animals that display emotions usually have eyebrows that "pop out"
*eyebrows of chimps are hairless to contract their hairy foreheads
social emotions
emotions that require a social context
-pride=emotional reaction to accomplishment
*marked by upturned head, puffed chest, or outstretched arms
---Social functions?
* Communicates accomplishment to others;
others can then follow your example
* Communicates the recent gain of goods or
status that may be of use to other group
◦ Embarrassment - emotional reaction to being
caught breaking a social norm
* Covering up face and body and/or blushing
--- Social functions?
Communicates to others that you're sorry for
breaking social norms
* Showing embarrassment increases likelihood
that others will forgive you
complex/mixed emotions
experience of 2 or more emotions simultaneously
Surprisingly underresearched, yet/
◦ Found across cultures
◦ Has signature facial, behavioral and
physiological expression
-- Evolved?
◦ May signal surprise that is not in reaction
to danger
* Jokes depend on surprise across cultures
* Taboo topics are funny across cultures
*Bodily functions, prejudice, defying cultural norms
Emotion and Expression: What
comes first
◦ Cognition precedes emotional expression
James Lange Theory
- Experiences/stimuli elicit physiological reaction (smiling, crying)
- Conscious mind picks up on this and experiences appropriate emotion
Criticisms of JamesLange Theory--
- Physiological arousal not enough to
generate emotions
◦ Participants that are injected with adrenaline
do not express a single emotional expression
- Many emotions lead to same physiological response
◦ Fear, anger, surprise and love all increase
heart rate and blood pressure
- Recognition of emotion can precede
physiological reactions (e.g., growing
fear or anger)
Eric Finzi, dermotologist
in Maryland
◦ Stop the frowning Stop the depression
Finzi, 2006, published in Dermotological Surgery
(vol. 32, pp. 645 - 650)
◦ Treated 10 women with severe, untreatable depression
--**◦ 2 months after botox, 9 out of 10 reported that the depression had lifted
◦ Benefit not due to cosmetic effects
- Most did not even have frown lines to begin with
Schachter 2 factor Theory
Physiological arousal + Cognitive
interpretation = Emotional experience
Schachter & Singer, 1962
-Participants told they would be given vitamin supplement
- Instead, participants were injected with adrenaline (unethical nowadays)
- Exposed to confederate in waiting room who was either playful or angry
-Participants interpreted same physiological arousal to happiness or anger depending on confederate
Dutton & Aron, 1974
- Male participants were caught and asked to fill out survey on bridge
-Afterward, "attractive" female researcher gave
participants her phone number and said to call if
they had any questions about the experiment
-60% of participants on "unsafe" bridge
called afterward; only 30% of those on safe
bridge called afterward. Why?
◦ Heightened physiological (fear) caused by
bridge was misattributed to female
Review of Theories
1. Historical Perspective
2. James Lang Theory
3. Schachter 2 factor theory
Ledoux's Dualroute Theory
-Provided neurobiological evidence for
Schachter's 2factor theory
-Two routes to emotion: fast & slow
◦ Fast route: Amygdala
* Body reacts quickly to stimulus, without conscious awareness being necessary
* Mirrors Schachter's "physiological response"
◦ Slow route: Prefrontal cortex
* Brain consciously interprets stimulus, and
emotions change accordingly
* Mirrors Schachter's "cognitive response"
-- Visual of snake enters brain
Fast route: Amygdala recognizes likely danger and initiates physiological response (startle and
back away)
Slow route: Info processed by visual and prefrontal cortex, allowing for cognitive interpretation of stimulus ("That's a
Amygdala at Work
Some stimuli are "preprogrammed" to
trigger amygdala's fearresponse
◦ "Instinctual fears"
◦ Snakes, spiders, heights, predators
◦ Example in animals: Horses fear tigers
Example in humans: Dragons across culture
Moral Dumbfounding
when people insist something is morally wrong, but cannot come up with logical reasons
Haidt (2001)
People make most moral decisions
based on quick emotional response
◦ Disgust, in particular, plays a major role
in whether something "feels" morally
◦ Showed many instances of moral
dumbfounding that relied on disgust
E.g., cooking and eating a deceased pet
Disgust and Moral Judgments
- Witnessing moral
◦ Causes disgust facial
◦ Same neurological
response as disgust
◦ Drop in blood pressure
What Triggers Disgust?
-Actions that are culturally unacceptable, novel, or strange
Degree of reaction is highly heritable
◦ People low in "openness to experience" tend to be more morally judgmental and conservative
◦ People high in "disgust sensitivity" (easily disgusted) tend to be more morally judgmenta
Disgust and Morality
- How can disgust make us more moral?
◦ Immoral acts tend to elicit disgust, motivated us
to act more morally and punish those that don't
- How can disgust make us less moral?
◦ Groups that seem strange / unacceptable may
elicit disgust
Harris & Fiske, 2007
-Participants looked at pictures of homeless
people while undergoing fMRI
◦ Participants showed increased activity in the
anterior insula, compared to control
* Brain area related to disgust
◦ As activity in insula increased,
activity in the pre8frontal cortex
* Participants less able to empathize with homeless people
--- Participants then asked to think about
homeless people as individuals
◦ Something as simple as, "What type of vegetables do you think this person would like?"
◦ As they did this, insula activity decreased and
prefrontal cortex activity increased
Prejudice and Disgust
"Individuation" of others
◦ Decreases disgust felt toward them
* Disgust common toward those we see as "less than human"
◦ Increases ability to empathize
* As soon as we see others as like us, it's easier to imagine ourselves in their shoes (i.e., to empathize)
Hot topic in psychology
◦ Founded "Positive Psychology" movement
Personally important to most people
◦ Vast majority of people in the U.S. rate personal
happiness as "very important"
◦ Majority think about happiness at least once a day
◦ Trend becoming more common in non-Wetern
countries as well
◦ Majority of people believe they can, and actively try to increase their happiness
Dispositional Happiness
People tend to underestimate how stable
their "subjective wellbeing" is
- Long-term happiness is largely
unaffected by
◦ Falling in love
◦ Getting a divorce
◦ Losing a loved one (even a child)
-People most often return back to baseline level of happiness within 1 year
◦ Most of the time, it only takes 3 months
Quoidbach & Dunn, 201
◦ Participants took battery of personality tests
(e.g., dispositional happiness, neuroticism)
◦ They also predicted how much they would be
emotionally affected by

Receiving their college grades (Study 1)
If Obama was elected President (Study 2)
◦ Events did not affect happiness even in the
same day, but stable personality traits did
Van Boven & Gilovich, 2003; Howell & Hill, 2009
◦ Participants often anticipated being happier after purchasing something worth over $100
Researchers found buying material goods worth
$100+ had no effect on happiness even days later
◦ However, buying "experiential goods" (e.g., trips, concerts) did make people happier
◦ Why?
Increased interaction with friends/family
Created positive anticipation and great memories
◦ But, negative experiential purchases (e.g., a bad vacation) also have longer lasting effects
Money ≠ Lasting Happiness
Kahneman & Deaton, 2010
◦ Study of 450,000 Americans: Income only
increased happiness up to $75,000, and then
had no effect
Myers, 2000
◦ Average U.S. income doubled in last 50
years (even after accounting for inflation)
◦ However, average level of happiness hasn't
increased at all
3 Types of Happiness
Work by Martin Seligman and others
◦ Discovered 3 "routes" to happiness
* Affected by different things
-Different effects on lasting happiness
Happiness Through Pleasure
Packing life with as much pleasure, and as little pain, as possible
◦ Highly predicted by number of friends and
frequency of social activities
* Also involves having skills needed to amplify
and prolong pleasure
◦ E.g., savoring, mindfulness
* Intervention:
◦ Make a beautiful day

----- Packing life with as much pleasure, and
as little pain, as possible
◦ Has little to no impact on lasting happiness
No lasting impact:
◦ Gaining or losing possessions
◦ Making more than $75,000 annually
◦ Gaining or losing friends
Happiness Through Flow
* Flow - complete immersion
in the present tasks
◦ Time passes very quickly
◦ Flat affectivity
* Intervention:
◦ Tailor work, love, and play around what you're best at
* Impact
◦ Doesn't increase positive affect (increase happiness)
◦ Does increase life satisfaction (decrease unhappiness)
Happiness Through Meaning
- Knowing one's strengths and using them to serve others
◦ Involves "flow" and philanthropy
◦ Spend 1 hour helping those in need
- Shown to have long-term effects on happiness
◦ Intervention increased happiness even 3 months later
Are religious people happier?
Very much so
◦ 2X likely to report being "very happy"
◦ Hundreds of studies show religious people
have higher levels of satisfaction in virtually
all levels of life (even in one's sex life!)
--What makes religious people so happy?
Religion often offers
1. large social networks and high frequency of social activities
-increasing pleasure
2. people who seek out and train you in whatever your good at (singing, leadership)
-increasing flow
3. Many opportunities for philanthropy and serving a higher purpose
-increasing meaning
Religion and Happiness
-No religion found to increase happiness more than any other
-Religion offers no more happiness than other activities that provide...
*large, active social networks
*opportunities to increase mastery/skills
*opportunities for philanthropy
Imagining what might have been affects feelings about what did happen
◦ Causes emotional amplification
◦ Getting 80% on an exam
Last possible score before dropping to a "C"
"Whew, I'm really glad I pulled off a 'B'!"
◦ Getting 89% on an exam
Last possible score before jumping to an A. Dang I was so close to getting an A
Upward counterfactuals
things were almost better than they are
-leads to less satisfaction
downward counterfactuals
things were almost worse than they are
-leads to more satisfaction
*amplified by proximity of alternative outcome
problems with too many options
More options
◦ More time agonizing over making the best
◦ Greater expectations
"There must be something truly great among all of these options!"
- Any negative outcome of decision is amplified
Satisfaction = when expectations aresurpassed
◦ Greater likelihood of making upward counterfactuals
"There must have been something better!"
- Blaming oneself for making wrong decision
Happiness and Options
Most satisfaction when
◦ Only a few options to chose from (3 - 5)
Too little = Feel impoverished
Too many = Feel overwhelmed
◦ With moderate number of options
Expectations aren't too high
- Less likelihood of better option Less
likelihood of upward counterfactuals
- If negative outcome, you can blame small
number of options and not yourself
What to do in a world full of options?
1. Don't be a "maximizer"
- Only satisfied with the best
- Agonizes over small differences
- Ruminates over negative aspects of decision
2. Be a "satisfizer"
- Satisfied with first option that works well
-Doesn't ruminate, focuses on the present
KNOW: Most options only bring pleasure, so even the best option won't bring lasting happiness