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.
I’ve often written about the moral system I advocate, which I’ve dubbed universal utilitarianism. Although people have a broad range of individual preferences, human nature is, in general, fixed and […]