It may come as a relief to know that you’re not supposed to be happy all the time — because, as a large body of research has demonstrated, it’s actually impossible. As the authors of a 1978 study on lottery winners explained, too much uninterrupted happiness will eventually fade to neutral: “Gradually even the most positive events will cease to have impact,” they wrote, “as they themselves are absorbed into the new baseline against which further events are judged.”
And yet somehow, the world is seemingly full of always-smiling, never-complaining rays of sunshine, brightening the days of some people and annoying the bejeezus out of others. If you happen to fall into the latter camp, here’s a piece of information that you may enjoy: New research has found a significant downside to perma-cheeriness. A study recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes found that we’re more inclined to take advantage of super-happy people, largely because their unbridled joy reads as naïveté. Over a series of six experiments, Ana Swanson explained in the Washington Post, study participants cheated people described as “very happy” much more than those who were just “moderately happy”:
In one experiment, the researchers gave their test subjects a chance to earn money off others by giving them biased advice — a situation somewhat analogous to a used car salesperson earning more commission by persuading a buyer to pay too much for a car. They found that their test subjects gave people who appeared to be very happy significantly more biased advice. In a separate study, they found that their test subjects were more likely to choose very happy people as negotiation partners, because they thought they would be easier to exploit.
The study, titled “Bliss is Ignorance,” had some truth in the name — as Swanson noted, past research has shown that happiness is often at odds with critical thinking. It makes sense: It’s hard to be unflappably perky when there’s so much to be miserable about; to pull it off, you’d have to compartmentalize or ignore a helluva lot of stuff, elevating the good and willfully ignoring the rest.
So, um, have a happy weekend, I guess? Have a weekend, and feel however you want.