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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Unconventional Approaches to Happiness

October 9, 2011, 2:00 PM
Happiness

What's the Latest Development?

Has our understanding of happiness been limited by our myopic tendency to consider it a metric belonging only to the psychologist? Linguists and animal behaviorists have recently been dipping their toes into the age-old pursuit. By collecting and studying the words we use across social media platforms, linguists have determined when we are happiest and what situations we associate with positive feelings. Late nights and early mornings spent with friends are good if you want to feel happy.

What's the Big Idea?

In the case of animal behaviorists, experiments have shown that under stressful conditions some species are more "optimistic" than others. When merino ewes and honeybees were confronted with mockups of their natural predators, only the ewes were willing to risk an ambiguous situation that could have led equally to tasty food or a growling dog. Honeybees, however, steered clear of anything that might risk another hive attack. To date, psychologists have not compared human behavior to either species. 

 

Unconventional Approaches t...

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