10 provocative studies on happiness and positive psychology

10 provocative studies on happiness and positive psychology

Check out this fascinating article and list compiled by Chris Peterson, one of the world’s leaders in positive psychology…

(NB: this comes from Psychology Today and you can read the original and full article HERE)

As 2010 came to an end, it was suggested to me by a Psychology Today editor that I prepare a “top ten” list of psychology research studies published in the past year. My first thought was “Oh sure … good idea.” One of the important missions of this entire blog is to give psychology away to interested readers, and psychology relies on research results to make sense of the human condition. So, empirical studies should be privileged here.

My second thought was “That would be difficult if not impossible … psychology is such a huge field … bad idea.” I can barely keep up with research in my own specific areas of interest, and any list I might make would be arbitrary if not flat out incomplete. And anyway, judgments of the importance of studies – even those of which I am aware – are best made from the vantage of history.

But then my third and final thought was “Hmm … throughout this past year, when I encountered a provocative study, I often wrote a blog entry about it … so, a more modest list is a good idea if presented with appropriate qualifications.” I looked back over the past year’s blog entries by me, noted those that focused on particular research studies, and then chose ten of these.

All are concerned one way or another with positive psychology – the scientific investigation of what makes life worth living. All are studies that caught my eye, so that bias is acknowledged, although I would like to think I have good taste. Some of these studies will have a lasting impact, others not. And all are studies about which I have already written in blog entries to which interested readers can be referred for details.

Here you go, my list of ten provocative studies in positive psychology circa 2010, along with some annotations and conclusions…


Why did these studies catch my eye? These are my biases, but after all, this too is my list. Most of these studies or lines of research had large and diverse samples and did not rely on callow undergraduates coerced into participation to earn course credit in their introductory psychology class. A number of them had ambitious longitudinal designs, appropriate given that the good life is one that unfolds over time. All studied outcomes that mattered: e.g., happiness, health, empathy, social relationships, and success. All had an important and obvious “so what” readily grasped by psychologists and non-psychologists alike. And finally, each study was simple – not to conduct – but to understand (Peterson & Park, 2010).

PS: note, again, you can read the full article on Psychology Today HERE