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Money impacts happiness more than previously thought, study finds
A new study casts doubt on previous research showing that emotional well-being plateaus at an income of $75,000 per year.
- A new study examined how income affects experienced and evaluative well-being, which are two measures researchers commonly use to evaluate happiness.
- The results showed that both evaluative and experienced well-being tend to increase alongside income.
- Still, the results don't suggest you should assign more importance to money, or tie your ideas of personal success to it.
Can money buy happiness?
In 2010, a Princeton University study added nuance to that adage by showing that money does indeed affect happiness, but it stops mattering after you're making about $75,000 a year. People who earned less than that amount tended to report lower levels of emotional well-being, potentially because of stress related to meeting basic needs. But when earning more than $75,000, everyone's more or less equally happy.
However, new research casts doubt on those widely cited findings.
"It's a compelling possibility, the idea that money stops mattering above that point, at least for how people actually feel moment to moment," Matthew Killingsworth, a senior fellow at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, told Penn Today. "But when I looked across a wide range of income levels, I found that all forms of well-being continued to rise with income. I don't see any sort of kink in the curve, an inflection point where money stops mattering. Instead, it keeps increasing."
Income and well-being
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study surveyed 33,391 employed U.S. adults ages 18 to 65. As in past studies, the participants answered questions about income and life satisfaction. But the study offered new insights because Killingsworth created a smartphone app that asked participants the question "How do you feel right now?" at random points throughout the day.
This captured the participants' experienced well-being, which is a measure of happiness in the moment. Another way that researchers measure happiness is through evaluative well-being, which examines the "global evaluation" people make of their lives, including general life satisfaction. The new study measured both experienced and evaluative well-being.
Credit: Killingsworth / PNAS
Unlike the 2010 study, the new research found that neither evaluative nor experienced well-being plateaued at the $75,000 income level. In fact, the results showed that both measures of well-being rose along with logarithmic income (which differs from raw income).
"This means that two households earning $20,000 and $60,000, respectively, would be expected to exhibit the same difference in well-being as two households earning $60,000 and $180,000, respectively," Killingsworth wrote. "The logarithmic relationship implies that marginal dollars do matter less the more one earns, while proportional differences in income have a constant association with well-being regardless of income."
Why does money matter?
The study couldn't offer any conclusive explanations for the money-happiness correlation, but Killingsworth suggested a few possibilities.
One is that extra money helps people reduce suffering and increase enjoyment. Another explanation centers on life control: Responses to the question "To what extent do you feel in control of your life?" accounted for 74 percent of the association between income and experienced well-being. Finally, financial insecurities, measured by participants reporting their difficulty in paying bills, accounted for 38 percent of the income-happiness association.
But while income may affect well-being more than previously thought, the new findings don't suggest you should assign more importance to money, or tie your ideas of personal success to income.
After all, "the more people equated money and success, the lower their experienced well-being was on average (P < 0.00001), and there did not appear to be any income level at which equating money and success was associated with greater experienced well-being," Killingsworth wrote.
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The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.
- One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
- A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
- The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.