Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Published 4 December 2008, doi:10.1136/bmj.a2338
Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a2338
In a research article the BMJ reported on a study by US medics
Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study
James H Fowler, associate professor1, Nicholas A Christakis, professor2
To evaluate whether happiness can spread from person to person and whether niches of happiness form within social networks.
Longitudinal social network analysis.
Framingham Heart Study social network.
Participants 4739 individuals followed from 1983 to 2003.
Clusters of happy and unhappy people are visible in the network, and the relationship between people’s happiness extends up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). People who are surrounded by many happy people and those who are central in the network are more likely to become happy in the future. Longitudinal statistical models suggest that clusters of happiness result from the spread of happiness and not just a tendency for people to associate with similar individuals. A friend who lives within a mile (about 1.6 km) and who becomes happy increases the probability that a person is happy by 25% (95% confidence interval 1% to 57%). Similar effects are seen in coresident spouses (8%, 0.2% to 16%), siblings who live within a mile (14%, 1% to 28%), and next door neighbours (34%, 7% to 70%). Effects are not seen between coworkers. The effect decays with time and with geographical separation.Conclusions
People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.
1 Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA , 2 Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, and Department of Sociology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Friday, December 5, 2008
Prof Dawkins (who subscribes to evolution to explain human development) thinks there could be an evolutionary advantage, not to believing in god, but to having a brain with the capacity to believe in god. That such faith exists is a by-product of enhanced intelligence. Prof Ramachandran denies that finding out how the brain reacts to religion negates the value of belief. He feels that brain circuitry like that Persinger and Newberg have identified, could amount to an antenna to make us receptive to god. Bishop Sykes meanwhile, thinks religion has nothing to fear from this neuroscience. Science is about seeking to explain the world around us. For him at least, it can co-exist with faith.
From website of BBC Two Horizon Program aired, Thursday 17 April 2003, 9pm http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2003/godonbrain.shtml accessed Dec 5th 2008 8:47am
* Prof Vilayanur Ramachandran, University of California, San Diego, USA
* Prof Gregory Holmes, Dartmouth Medical School, USA working with Buddist Michael Blaime
* Dr Michael Persinger, Laurentian University, Canada
* Bishop Stephen Sykes, University of Durham, UK
* Dr Andrew Newberg, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, USA
* Prof Richard Dawkins, UK
To me this elicits a number of questions?
1. what happens to the brain in meditative state?
2. what counts as a meditative state?
3. how does this link to personal faiths and religions?
4. how does this effect happiness?
I'm starting a series of entries that investigate these questions.