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Surprising Science

The Ugly Side of Happiness

A string of new studies suggests that the modern chase after happiness—and even happiness itself—can hurt us. Happy, it turns out, is not always the way you want to be.

What’s the Latest Development?

Having too much of a good thing, even happiness, can turn out badly, warn experimental psychologists who study that warm, fuzzy feeling. When it comes to income levels, life expectancy, education and being attentive to risks, too much happiness can drag you down. “Psychologists have documented a set of cognitive deficits, dangerous in some contexts, that come with the warm wash of feeling that all is right with the world.”

What’s the Big Idea?

As neuroscience advances, mental states are increasingly isolated for study. And lately, the study of happiness has been all the rage. But lest we confuse studying happiness with doggedly pursuing the positive emotion in our own lives, contemporary psychology reminds us that happiness is the byproduct of certain ways of behavior. It is not an end that can be achieved by pursing bliss directly. That, they say, is a recipe for unhappiness.  


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