Happiness: the Science Behind Your Smile

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the science behind your smile

Daniel Nettle


Great Clarendon Street, Oxford ox2 6dp Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide in Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries Published in the United States by Oxford University Press Inc., New York © Daniel Nettle 2005 The moral rights of the author have been asserted Database right Oxford University Press (maker) First published 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organizations. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Data available Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Data available ISBN 0–19–280558–4 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 Typeset by RefineCatch Limited, Bungay, Suffolk Printed in Great Britain by Clays Ltd., St Ives plc

Introduction 1 Comfort and joy 2 Bread and circuses 3 Love and work 4 Worriers and enthusiasts 5 Wanting and liking 6 Panaceas and placebos 7 A design for living Further reading Notes References Index 1 7 45 65 91 115 141 161 185 187 198 213


List of figures
1.1 Faces displaying basic emotions, used by Paul Ekman in his research. © Paul Ekman 1976–2004. 1.2 Three different senses of the term ‘happiness’. 2.1 Grumpy old men. Clockwise: © The Times/Camera Press, London; © Ann Ronan Picture Library/HIP/TopFoto.co.uk; © Bettmann/ Corbis; © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis; © TopFoto.co. uk; courtesy of Trinity College Library, Cambridge. 2.2 Distribution of responses to the question of how life has turned out. 2.3 Scale of where participants think they will be in ten years’ time. 3.1 Life satisfaction in contemporary Britain by social class, as defined by occupation. 3.2 Life satisfaction in contemporary Britain by marital status at age 42. 4.1 Average happiness rating of British adults on a 5 point scale, by neuroticism personality score. 4.2 Average happiness rating of British adults on a 5 point scale, by extroversion score. 5.1 Electric pleasure: a rat self-administering brain stimulation reward.


Happiness is an ideal not of reason but of imagination immanuel kant, grundlegung zur metaphysik der sitten Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment boswell’s life of johnson

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‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ wrote Thomas Jefferson in the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness’. Of these three, it is the third that seems most able to imbue our lives with purpose. Without its guiding light, there would be no way of knowing what to do with life and liberty, or so it would seem. Jefferson’s rights one and two wake the horse up and open the stable door, but only number three—the pursuit of happiness—is going...
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