Grow Into Happiness


You know the situation, or at least you might remember it: as you’re just about to go out for the night, your parents are tucking themselves into bed. You look back and wonder how they could be content with spending the night watching Law & Order: SVU—how could they be happy with something so boring?

Social psychologists may have found the answer and it’s mostly a matter of perspective. While a night of partying and socializing can create happiness for the young, a night of television can be equally satisfying for older people. As a person ages, the things that make them happy change as well. To put it in psychological terms, humans experience a shift from “promotion motivation” to “prevention motivation.” When we’re younger, we look at things in terms of the reward they can provide. This causes us to evaluate our activities with questions like How can this social outing improve my social standing or sexual success? But when we age, happiness is found not through advancement, but stability. Older people derive happiness from calm consistency and trying to avoid things that might impact them negatively.

The Atlantic has more to say on the matter:

Research from Northwestern University in the journal Psychology and Aging suggests that promotion-mindedness is most prevalent among the young, because youth is a time for focusing on your hopes for the future, what you ideally want to do—you don’t have much in the way of responsibilities, and you still believe you can do anything you set your mind to. That and you think you are immortal. This is more or less a recipe for strong promotion motivation.

As we get older, illusions of immortality vanish. There is a mortgage that needs to be paid, a home that must be maintained, and children to be cared for.

Young people even use different language for the happiness they experience. “Excitement” and “elation” were more associated with the anticipated rewards of younger people, while the older participants used words such as “calm,” “relief,” and “peace.” In this way, both parties—young and old—are happy, but the happiness is achieved in different ways. Because our goals in life evolve, so too do our standards for happiness.


Attribution

How Happiness Changes With Age,” Heidi Grant Halvorson, The Atlantic


Commentary Ticker

  • Data Knows Best: Greatest TV Shows Get Ranked and Graphed
    March 26, 2014 | 10:50 am

    Every argument is better with charts and graphs. Sometimes a little linear regression can provide more insight than a long-winded report. GraphTV tests that theory by plotting the ratings of popular television shows. It all started with Breaking Bad. Data guru Kevin Wu was watching its fifth and final season and couldn’t help but think [...]

  • A Coin-Inspired National Spirit, Hopefully
    March 20, 2014 | 11:56 am

    The Lakota Nation, a group of seven Native American bands in North and South Dakota, voted to make a Bitcoin-like crypto-currency called MazaCoin their official currency, according to Forbes. Programmer and Lakota activist Payu Harris believes that the coin will help the Lakota people gain sovereignty over their land. “To be a truly independent state [...]

  • Smartguns and the Promise of Progress
    March 3, 2014 | 9:50 am

    With the recent Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (and the 44 school shootings since) still relatively fresh in our collective minds, and with Congress empirically unable to do anything to stop gun violence at all, it seems slowing, if not stopping, the gun violence epidemic has fallen on a strange coalition of gun manufacturers, Silicon [...]

  • Watch: Movies Without Imaginary Friends
    January 28, 2014 | 12:56 pm

    If you seriously haven’t watched Fight Club yet (or read the book by Chuck Palahniuk) stop and go do that right now. You’re fifteen years late to the craziest party. Okay, you’ve watched it now? Onwards. A visual effects specialist in New York accelerated himself to Internet fame in mid-January when he edited Tyler Durden [...]

  • The Racism of “Racism”: The Complicated Origins of the Term
    January 17, 2014 | 12:27 pm

    “Racism,” like race, was invented. The term “racism” has done a lot of heavy lifting for anti-racism advocates, helping to frame anyone discriminating by race as misguided. Just as with classism or sexism, not only does the word racism give name to an evil, it helps to create the thing as evil in the first [...]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!



Trending on The Airspace