Happiness, How Our Environment Affects Our Well Being and Performance
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
KOSLOSKY, J. L. (2001). Happiness, How Our Environment Affects Our Well Being and Performance. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 4. Available online at http://www.webclearinghouse.net/volume/. Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Happiness, How Our Environment Affects Our Well Being and Performance
Missouri Western State University DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHOLOGY

Sponsored by: Brian Cronk (cronk@missouriwestern.edu)
The purpose of this study was to show how a person’s environment could effect their happiness, which in turn could effect one’s performance. To show this, four different psychology 101 and 200 classes were used. The students had to watch a short ten-minute video and then take a math test. There were two different videos used, one a cartoon and the other an account of September 11th. Two of the classes were told their test scores would count toward their grade in the class, and the other two were told the test scores did not count for anything. The results of the study showed that students who watched the cartoon tended to answer more questions correct than the students who watched the video of September 11th. There was no significance of whether or not the test counted or the interaction between the two independent variables.

Happiness, How our Environment Affects Our Well Being and Performance. "When you`re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. When you`re frowning, the whole world smiles without you (Beckman, 2001)." For millions of people, achieving professional success, acquiring wealth, and finding the right partner are all means to be happy. It seems as though psychology has focused mostly on negative emotions rather than on positive ones. There was a 21 to one ratio of negative to positive emotions studied between the years of 1967 through 1995. There is now a change, and researchers are beginning to research and study who is happy and why? (Myers, 1997a) Sometimes we are so consumed with our daily lives that we forget to look at the larger picture of who we are and what we need to be happy (Reiss, 2001). Mental health professionals also teach us that happiness is akin to a sudsy, oily bar of soap because it can slip out of your hands. People who demand happiness end up keeping it out of their own reach. Sometimes we doom ourselves with misery when we confuse happiness with pleasure. We can achieve happiness by clarifying our values and then live according to those values. (Epstein, 2001) Which attitudes, activities, and priorities provide a sense of well-being? Are people of a certain age, race, sex, or income level happier than other? “There is no fool who is happy, and no wise man who is not,” wrote Cicero, the Roman philosopher. In history, people believed that happiness comes from living a virtuous life or indulging pleasures. (Myers, 1997b) Some people believe that most people are unhappy most of the time. Dennis Wholey found that the experts said that they believed that only 20% of Americans are happy, one-third of all Americans wake up depressed every day, and 10% to 15% of Americans think of themselves as truly happy. (Myers, 1997b) Happiness is a goal that people commonly strive for. Sometimes it seems as though for many, it is out of reach. There has been a lot of research done recently on how to achieve happiness. Most of the research involves questioning millions of people about their happiness or unhappiness. These studies usually involve surveys that include questions such as, “Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, happy, or not too happy?”, “How satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”, “In most ways, my life is close to my ideal.” (Myers, 1997b) The results of these types of surveys show that people are generally pretty happy. Three out of ten Americans say they are very happy, one in ten say they are not too happy, and the rest say they are pretty happy. Eight in ten rate themselves as being satisfied or very satisfied with their lives, and in general the spirit of today is positive (Myers, 1997b). Results of a 10-year study showed that given the right disposition, in the face of difficulty, people can still find renewed happiness (Myers, 1992). What exactly predicts happiness? Scientists have an idea of what makes a person happy. Strong marriages, family ties, friendships, spirituality, and self-esteem all help to determine happiness (Morris, 20001). In study after study, four different traits seem to characterize happy people. First of all, they have a high self-esteem. These people believe themselves to be more ethical, more intelligent, less prejudiced, better able to get along with others, and healthier. Secondly, people who are happy usually feel personal control. People with an internal locus of control, usually achieve more in school, cope better with stress, and live more happily. Third, happy people are usually optimistic. These people believe that with enough faith, you can do almost anything. Being a pessimist only makes people more vulnerable to illness (Myers, 1992). Fourth, most happy people are extroverted. Social, outgoing people report greater happiness and satisfaction with life. (Myers, 1997c) Close relationships also mark happy lives. Even though there are some stresses with close relationships, the benefits of relationships with friends and family usually outweigh the strains. A supportive, intimate, committed relationship is one of life’s greatest satisfactions. (Myers, 1997a) If a person isn’t happy, how do they become happy? It is easy to say that happiness comes with having positive self-esteem, feeling control over our own lives, and being optimistic, but how do we achieve these if we don’t already have them? Some scientists believe that happiness can be learned. If you practice it day in and day out you can achieve it. Increasing your happiness may not always be easy. A person may be working against their own innate personality traits, learned thinking habits, and the environment. “If you want to keep your happiness at the higher end of the set range,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist, “you have to commit yourself every day to doing things to make you happy.” (Morris, 2001) Some of the things that predict people’s happiness with life include: aerobically fit and healthy bodies, realistic goals, and expectations, supportive friendships, an intimate, sexually warm, marriage, and a faith that provides support, purpose, and acceptance (Myers, 1992). People need to find goals for themselves that reflect their interests and values. When the goals are achieved, the person’s well-being is lifted. People need to find the things that make themselves happy. Laughter is always a key issue of happiness. People need to smile and laugh more and more throughout their lives. Getting rid of all of the bad things and replacing them with good things will always help in the destination to happiness (Morris, 2001). With all of the tragic events that were caused by terrorism, it’s hard to say whether people will sustain their happiness. In crisis situations, people who are generally very happy, tend to bounce back quicker during crisis situations. Everyone, no matter how happy they are, is affected during a crisis. It is the people who are not happy, and even in some cases depressed before a tragedy, that take a long time to come out of the depression of the event. If a person has a generally positive disposition, they can usually return to their positive, upbeat lives fairly quickly. (Morris, 2001) The purpose of this research is to show that if a person is happy then they will perform better. I believe that a person does better in all life situations when they are happy and healthy. The independent variable in this study is the type of environment the class is subjected to, whether it be happy or sad video, and whether or not the test scores count against their grade. The dependent variable in this study is the test scores, because I believe they will be contingent upon the environment the students receive.


For this study, there were four different psychology 101 and 200 classes used. The total number of participants were 134. The classes were a general studies course and an intermediate course, so there is a potential for all different types of students with different majors. All of the participants were Missouri Western State College students.

There were two different video tapes used for the study. Each of the tapes were approximately ten minutes long. One of the tapes dealt with the September 11 plane crashes/bombings, and the other was a Charli Brown Holloween cartoon. The tapes were used to set the mood for the students of either happiness (cartoon), or sadness (bombings). The other item used in this experiment was a test to assess the participants performance. The test included ten different math problems with multiple choice answers. The math problems were taken from a practice graduate record examination booklet.

Each of the four different classes were subjected to different environments. The first class of students was shown the video of the cartoon and then took the math test. These students were told that the test did not count towards their grade. The second class was also shown the tape of the cartoon, but they were told that the test counted towards their grade. The third class was shown the video from September 11, and told that the test score did not count toward their grade. Finally, the fourth class was shown the video from September 11, and told that their test scores counted toward their grade. There was a ten to fifteen-minute time limit for the students to answer the test questions. Once all of the participants were finished taking the test, they were debriefed. I explained to the students what my study was about, and told all of the participants that their test scores did not count at all towards their grade in the class. I also explained to the students that I was the only one who saw the results of the test, that everything was completely confidential, and if they had any questions or concerns they were welcome to come and speek with me.

A 2 (video type) x 2 (told whether it counted) between subject factorial ANOVA was calculated comparing which video the subjects watched and whether or not the subjects were told the test counted toward their grade. A non-significant trend was found for the main effect for the video (F(1,130) = 2.95, p = .08). Students who watched the cartoon video answered more questions correct (m = 4.27, se = .278) than the students who watched the September 11th video (m = 3.65, se = .234). The main effect for whether or not the test counted towards the students grade was not significant (F(1,130) = 1.31, p = .25). The interaction between the two was also not significant (F(1,130) = .49, p = .48). Thus, it appears that neither the video not whether or not the students were told the scores counted towards their grade had any statistically significant effect on the number of questions answered correctly, but subjects who saw the cartoon tended to get more correct (refer to figure).

Statement of Results In this study I found that there was a non-significant trend between the two videos, but no siginificant results between whether or not the test counted or the interaction between them. My hypothesis was somewhat correct in thinking that the students would do better on the test after being shown the happy video, but nothing was statistically significant enough to prove anything. Limitations Some of the limitations in this study may have included the type of assessment test used and the sampling size. The math test may not have been the best type of test to use to for the purpose of this study, because some students are just not good at math or may even get math anxiety. This may tend to mess up the results. The number of participants could have been larger to show more significance also. Generality I think I may have received better results if I had more students to participate in the study. I also think if I had used a different test, the results may have been a little more significant. Directions for Future Studies In the future, I may want to use more participants so there is more data to compare and look at. I may also want to change the assessment test to maybe a memory test or something. I believe this is definitely a good bases to start the new study.

Beckman, M. (2001). No satisfaction? Here`s why. Science Now. 1, 2-4.Epstein, R. (2001). Happiness reexamined. Psychology Today. 34, 7-11. Morris, H. J. (2001). Happiness explained. U.S. News & World Report. 131, 46-56.Myers, D. G. (1997a). The new scientific pursuit of happiness. Harvard Mental Health Letter. 14, 4-8. Myers, D. G. (1997b). The pursuit of happiness. Scientific American. 7, 44-47. Myers, D. G. (1997c). The science of happiness. Futurist. 31, 1-8.Myers, D. G. (1992). The secrets of happiness. Psychology Today. 25, 38-46.Reiss, S. (2001). Secrets of happiness. Psychology Today. 34, 50-55.

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Submitted 11/29/2001 1:57:26 PM
Last Edited 11/29/2001 3:21:59 PM
Converted to New Site 03/09/2009

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