Saturday, December 01, 2007

Happiness is People Failing Around You?

A new study reported by Time finds, “reward mechanisms in the brain depend on how well you think other people are doing.” In other words, no matter how well you’re doing at something, as long as you’re getting more than the next guy, you’re happy.

Deny it all you want. But the reasoning here goes “back to Aristotle,” said one researcher; and scientific evidence is piling up in his corner.

In the latest study, the Univeristy of Bonn in Germany hooked people to a brain scanner and had them participate in a series of tasks. For succeeding in the tasks, participants were given varying cash prizes. They were also told how others did on the tasks and how much they received for their performances.

Sure enough, “Players on average were more pleased with a 60 euro prize when the other player got just 30 euros, for example, than they were if both players earned 60 euros.”

The new findings help explain why, despite material gains, people on balance aren’t any happier than they were 50 years ago.

The research also challenges conventional economic principles. Modern economics is based on self-interest driving the market. But it appears as though beating thy neighbor is the true catalyst for drive and innovation.

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.