Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More on Pessimism and Optimisim

From this Smarterware blog which is talking about this Atlantic article. Appearantly there is a Harvard medical study that has been going on since the 1930s tracking some male graduates through their entire life with yearly psychological evaluations. The goal of the study is to gain a better understanding of what makes us happy, sad, fufilled, etc. Turns out that optimism and good squishy things like kindness, understanding, empathy and all that fuzzy good stuff is the best for long term happiness, but suprisingly pessimism and negative emotions like anger, fear, and all those dark melancholic things are good for the short term. In the words of the lead researcher, 

"Positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak."

Clearly this connect to the previous post, and I think even more interestingly, to Matt's comment about the direction of time with reguard to the cynical and skeptical viewpoints. How does the past influcence your view of the future? 

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