December 05, 2008
Feel my power
Just in yesterday afternoon from Kim Dixon of momspit, the following email:
- Hi again,
I had to write and thank you again as our Amazon.com store has been filled with orders since your post — and 95% are male buyers of the 2 oz. unscented MomSpit which is the image you featured. I know it's your power, as men are not our usual buyers (1 out of 10), and scented outsells unscented 2:1.
You've got it going on.
OK, I'm down with that.
Now will somebody please show me the money?
Includes digital clock powered by jumper wires and fruit (fruit not included).
Yes, we have no bananas.
BehindTheMedspeak: Happiness runs in a circular motion (Donovan was right*)
Long story short: Happiness is contagious — you catch it from your friends.
Here's Rob Stein's story from today's Washington Post about the new new thing in smiley-face studies.
- Happiness Can Spread Among People Like a Contagion, Study Indicates
Happiness is contagious, spreading among friends, neighbors, siblings and spouses like the flu, according to a large study that for the first time shows how emotion can ripple through clusters of people who may not even know each other.
The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness, moreover, can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person's husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbor.
"You would think that your emotional state would depend on your own choices and actions and experience," said Nicholas A. Christakis, a medical sociologist at Harvard University who helped conduct the study published online today by BMJ, a British medical journal. "But it also depends on the choices and actions and experiences of other people, including people to whom you are not directly connected. Happiness is contagious."
One person's happiness can affect another's for as much as a year, the researchers found, and while unhappiness can also spread from person to person, the "infectiousness" of that emotion appears to be far weaker.
Previous studies have documented the common experience that one person's emotions can influence another's — laughter can trigger guffaws in others; seeing someone smile can momentarily lift one's spirits. But the new study is the first to find that happiness can spread across groups for an extended period.
When one person in the network became happy, the chances that a friend, sibling, spouse or next-door neighbor would become happy increased between 8 percent and 34 percent, the researchers found. The effect continued through three degrees of separation, although it dropped progressively from about 15 percent to 10 percent to about 6 percent before disappearing.
The research follows previous work by Christakis and co-author James H. Fowler that found that obesity also appears to spread from person to person, as does the likelihood of quitting smoking. The researchers have been using detailed records originally collected by the Framingham Heart Study, a long-running project that has explored a host of health issues, to construct and analyze detailed maps of social networks.
The findings, Christakis and others said, provide striking new evidence of the power of social networks, which could have implications for public policy. Happy people tend to be better off in myriad ways, being more creative, productive and healthier.
"For a long time, we measured the health of a country by looking at its gross domestic product," said Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who co-authored the study. "But our work shows that whether a friend's friend is happy has more influence than a $5,000 raise. So at a time when we're facing such economic difficulties, the message could be, 'Hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.' "
Other experts praised the study as a landmark in the growing body of evidence documenting the influence of personal connections and the importance of positive emotions.
"It's a pathfinding article," said Martin E.P. Seligman, a University of Pennsylvania psychologist. "It's totally original, and the findings are striking."
Stanley Wasserman, who studies social networks at Indiana University, said: "We've known that one's network ties are important, but we've never looked at anything on this scale. The implications are you can't look at individuals as little entities devoid of their social context."
Others, however, questioned the findings, noting that it is difficult to account for every variable that might affect the outcomes of such studies.
"Researchers should be cautious in attributing correlations in health outcomes of close friends in social network effects," wrote Ethan Cohen-Cole of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and Jason M. Fletcher of Yale University in an accompanying study. Their research used data from a large federal survey to show that acne, headaches and even height could appear to spread through social networks if not analyzed properly. "The methods of detecting 'social network effects' of health outcomes commonly found in the recent medical literature might produce effects where none exists."
But Christakis said his analysis took other possible explanations into consideration.
Ed Diener, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the findings could explain why people in some countries tend to be happier than others. "This is an extremely exciting study — interesting, provocative and important," Diener said.
While obesity appeared to spread even among people who lived far apart, happiness appears to be transmitted only among people who live within a mile of one another. The influence was also greatest among people who considered themselves mutual friends.
Because the researchers did not find the effect for people living on the same block beyond a next-door neighbor, they were confident that the positive mood was not the result of living in the same good neighborhood. Because people tended to get happier if someone they knew became happy, the researchers could rule out the alternative explanation that happy people tend to be drawn to each other.
"We know it's not a 'birds of a feather flock together' effect," Christakis said.
Surprisingly, happiness had no such effect at work. The researchers speculated that work relationships may have different dynamics. One worker might become happy because he or she got a raise or a promotion at the expense of another, for example.
Unhappiness also appeared to be catching, but not as strongly: An unhappy connection increased the chances of being unhappy by about 7 percent on average, while a happy connection increased the chances of being happy by about 9 percent. While having more friends is important for a person's happiness, the benefit of having more friends appears to be canceled out if they are unhappy, the researchers found.
The researchers and others speculated that the emotion may be important on an evolutionary level by helping people cooperate. Seligman likened happiness to an orchestra tuning up.
"Laughter and singing and smiling tune the group emotionally," Seligman said. "They get them on the same wavelength so they can work together more effectively as group."
In case you fell asleep there toward the end, don't forget to consider the bad news, to wit: ".... happiness appears to be transmitted only among people who live within a mile of one another."
Maybe it's time you moved to my Podunk town to feel the joy — there are currently two houses for sale in my little neighborhood, each within a block of where I walk this very minute on my treadmill.
For those who prefer original sources to MSM glosses, here's the abstract of the just-published British Medical Journal article.
- Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study
Objectives: To evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether niches of happiness form within social networks.
Design: Longitudinal social network analysis.
Setting: Framingham Heart Study social network.
Participants: 4739 individuals followed from 1983 to 2003.
Main outcome measures: Happiness measured with validated four item scale; broad array of attributes of social networks and diverse social ties.
Results: Clusters of happy and unhappy people are visible in the network, and the relationship between people’s happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25% (95% confidence interval 1% to 57%). Similar effects are seen in coresident spouses (8%, 0.2% to 16%), siblings who live within a mile (14%, 1% to 28%), and next door neighbours (34%, 7% to 70%). Effects are not seen between coworkers. The effect decays with time and with geographical separation.
Conclusions: People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.
Then there are those who'll do anything — anything! — to avoid doing whatever it is they're supposed to be doing.
Well, have I got a treat for you.
Here's a link to the entire BMJ article — objectives, design, methods, results, conclusions, tables, figures, graphs, references, the whole kielbasa.
That oughta keep you occupied for a while.
You want still more?
OK, you know how important your happiness is to me.
- Commentary: Understanding social network analysis
In the linked study, Fowler and Christakis investigated the new and intriguing hypothesis that people’s happiness is influenced by, among other things, the happiness of their acquaintances, particularly first degree relatives, close friends, neighbours, and coworkers.1 The authors cleverly use the Framingham heart study’s existing database that includes, fortuitously rather than by design, information that can be used for social network analysis. Their results broadly confirm this hypothesis, but many readers will be unfamiliar with social network analysis, confused by the analytical techniques, and unsure about the validity of the findings.
Humans are unavoidably social beings. Consequently, not only does society exist, but its existence is inevitable, and each person is influenced in many ways by society at large and individuals and groups within it. It follows that to understand the attributes of individuals (for instance their behaviour and health) the research toolkit must include methods that explore the social relationships between people. Social network analysis is one such method.
Put simply, by asking study participants to list the people they know, and which acquaintances know each other, social network analysis researchers seek to represent visually and analyse quantitatively the web of relationships around and among people. Of course, in reality, it is more complex than this. For instance, researchers may focus on the relationships around each individual or they may aggregate these to construct the more complex web of relationships within a community (for instance a business organisation or a town); or researchers may focus on everyone known to each study participant or, more commonly, on a particular group of their acquaintances (for instance their family or the people they see daily). Depending on their specific aims, researchers carefully phrase their questions to participants (the "name generators") to identify the types of acquaintances they are interested in.
Fowler and Christakis’s study has several strengths. Firstly, when the information was collected it was not intended that it would be used to measure happiness, analyse social networks, or explore this hypothesis. Consequently, the original data collection was not biased by the researchers’ desire to confirm this hypothesis or by the participants’ wishes to give socially desirable answers. Secondly, although social network analysis is complex and unfamiliar to many, this research method is commonly used by sociologists, community psychologists, and others. Thirdly, despite the sometimes large and overlapping confidence intervals, the results are internally consistent and robust to sensitivity analyses.
We should be cautious, however, for several reasons. Firstly, a single community and a single database that was not designed to tackle this hypothesis was studied — perhaps Framingham is unique in some way; perhaps the data collection incorporated an unknown systematic bias that produced these results. Secondly, the findings concerning friends must be viewed cautiously because the name generator used seems unlikely to have encouraged respondents with several close friends to name more than one. From a social network analysis viewpoint it would have been preferable to ask respondents to name all their close friends. This would have generated more complete networks and made it more likely that mutual friends would have been identified. Also, the size of the influence of distant friends (friends of friends’ friends; 5.6%) seems overly large when the influence of a happy friend is only 14%. Thirdly, the measure of happiness is well validated as a measure of "positive affect," but it will be interesting to see if similar results are produced with different measures of happiness. Fourthly, happiness is not everything; unhappy acquaintances may contribute something other than happiness to our lives.
In summary, Fowler and Christakis have produced valuable, exciting, and reasonably robust results that will stimulate new and productive lines of enquiry in happiness studies. However, we must not expect all the details of their findings to be confirmed in subsequent work. Don’t drop your unhappy friends yet.
I'm exhausted and need to go lie down.
Just one more thing?
Sheesh... here you go.
GPS Cupholder Mount — Who needs suction?
Not you if you've got this odd puppy.
From the website:
- GPS Cupholder Mount
Supports any GPS in a standard cup holder, making it less of a target for thieves than on a windshield.
Improves windshield vision, no messy wires (wires roll up in bottom of unit).
Keeps GPS unit out of baking sun — and no more suction marks.
No more reaching over steering wheel to program.
4-1/4"Ø x 6"H.
$19.98 (GPS device included? What do you think...?).
Meow Meow's 'kamikaze kabaret exotica'
The Australian cabaret diva, termed by Le Monde a "tawdry underworld Eurydice," is bringing her act to Gotham this month.
She'll present the holiday concert "Meow to the World" at the Highline Ballroom on December 17, 20, 21 and 22.
Above, her rendition of Laurie Anderson's "The Dream Before."
What are they?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
Build your own alien projector
FLOCKS Pouf — by Christien Meindertsma
From the website:
FLOCKS is the brainchild of Rotterdam-based Christien Meindertsma.
You will love these warm, textural poufs that epitomize all that is wonderful about traditional, down-home comfort.
Christien Meindertsma has reinterpreted the ages-old chain stitch in an exuberant new form.
Using giant knitting needles she had crafted specifically for this purpose, she carefully knits these oversized stuffed rounds for soft seating that reminds you of being enveloped in a wool afghan.
The individual stitches on each pouf are so large that they become sculpture,
showing each intricate curve and loop as a work of art in itself as well as an integral part of the whole of the pouf.
A 100% cotton lining keeps the polyester fill in place. The texture plays with the light and adds depth to the organic shape, combining comfort, warmth and detail in one deceptively simple addition to your floor décor.
Try tossing a few poufs into the room and see how quickly guests scramble to sink into them.
Adding to the personal, hand-made sensibility is the tag on each Flocks pouf
that indicates the flock and personal name of the sheep the wool came from.
Size: 43.5" diameter x 20.5" high.
White, Blue, Red, Pink, Yellow, Green, Black or Brown.
$4,080–$10,980, depending on color.