Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Not Knowing is Making Us Sick

The Recession and Families: Post 1 of 4

"Psychologists and economists now know that although the very rich are no happier than the merely rich, for the other 99 percent of us, happiness is greatly enhanced by a few quaint assets, like shelter, sustenance and security. Americans are smiling less and worrying more than they were a year ago, happiness is down and sadness is up, we are getting less sleep and smoking more cigarettes and depression is on the rise."

Author Daniel Gilbert, in a NY Times article, asks Why? Some of us are clearly suffering in this recession, but it’s not as if we all lost all of our money.
"The reason is because people feel worse when something bad might occur than they do when something bad will occur. Most of us aren't losing sleep and sucking down Marlboros because the Dow is going to fall another thousand points, but because we don't know whether it will fall or not -- and human beings find uncertainty more painful than the things they're uncertain about."

"Consider an experiment by researchers at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who gave subjects a series of 20 electric shocks. Some subjects knew they would receive an intense shock on every trial. Others knew they would receive 17 mild shocks and 3 intense shocks, but they didn't know on which of the 20 trials the intense shocks would come. The results showed that subjects who thought there was a small chance of receiving an intense shock were more afraid -- they sweated more profusely, their hearts beat faster -- than subjects who knew for sure that they'd receive an intense shock."

A very interesting piece about human nature.