Science of happiness information site.Science of happiness

It is rare that the meaning of a novel is in a subtitle, but it happens in the most recent of American Richard Powers book. "An improvement," reads the small wording under the title of Generosity. This is about the development of our lives through science, more specifically, through genetic manipulation carried out by a kind of guru of happiness, the researcher Thomas Kurton.

Kurton, sometimes enlightened, often a charlatan, always a businessman, thinks he has found happiness in the gene of a student of Kabyle origin, Thassa Amzwar. What strikes him about this bright and optimistic young woman is her ability to respond to trauma by the smile. In Algeria, where the minority Kabyle has a hard life, his father was murdered and his mother died of cancer shortly after. Thassa itself has experienced exile in Paris, Montreal and Chicago, setting of the novel abounding.

We meet Thassa in the classroom Russell Stone, a lecturer not too good at trying to teach creative writing to a group of crazy. Thassa surprises everyone, his friends and his teacher, recounting the events of his life in a way so simple and straightforward that it seems beyond human. The secret? "I try not to decide more than God," she said.

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What was the project all about?

This mass participation project aimed to have a large number of people spending a few days carrying out an exercise designed to boost their happiness. Because emotions are contagious it was hoped that their increased happiness would pass to those around them and help cheer up the world! The project took place between Monday 3rd - Friday 7th August 2009, and was conducted by psychologist Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire and author of 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot).

What happened? Over 26,000 people signed up for the project. We will submit a full report describing the project to a scientific journal soon, but here are some initial results. In one part of the study participants were randomly assigned to one of five groups. People in each group watched a video describing one of four techniques commonly used to boost happiness expressing gratitude, smiling, recalling a pleasant event from the day before and carrying out an act of kindness. Those in the fifth 'control' group were simply asked to think about what had happened the day before. This latter group was very important, because it helped assess th