Remember that research last week about happiness being contagious that every newspaper in the universe picked up. Well, leave it to those spoilsports at the NYTimes.com’s Freakonomics Blog to punch holes in the findings.
“If you and I are friends, we are often subject to similar influences. If a buddy of ours dies, we’ll both be less happy. Or, less dramatically, if our favorite football team wins, we’ll both be happier. But this isn’t contagious happiness — it is simply a natural outcome of the shared experiences of people in the same social circles. Unfortunately, observational data cannot distinguish the headline-grabbing conclusion — that happiness is contagious — from my more mundane alternative: friends have shared emotional influences.”
I know that readers of this blog will find it hard to believe, but reporters and headline writers who grabbed the press-release about the research-findings didn’t take time to question the spin.
Based on some independent research, however, I think this time the Freakonomists are wrong. Since reading the original story last week, I’ve tried to be happy on Twitter, believing that such happiness would be contagious. And, not so coincidentally I would theorize, the moment I started being a happy “tweeter,” the stock market began to move up dramatically. While I’m sure the Freakonomics bloggers will try to claim that such a correlation is cute, but that my tweets have no “causative” effect on the stock market. If that’s the case, all I can say is, I hope they’ll defend me when the SEC charges me with insider happiness.