Monthly Article Archives: April 2008

Money and Happiness: Truths and MythsRobert Brooks, Ph.D.

As many of my readers are aware, I am very interested in the study of concepts subsumed under the general topic of “positive psychology,” especially those related to hope, happiness, altruism, and resilience. Thus, it was not surprising that I was drawn to an article published in The Boston Globe on March 21, 2008 by Carey Goldberg with the intriguing title “Money makes you happy—if you spend it on others.” The article focused on research conducted by Elizabeth Dunn, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, and Michael Norton at Harvard Business School. Their study was published in the journal Science. Goldberg writes, “Studies of happiness have long found that unless people are extremely poor, getting more money brings surprisingly slight gains in positive feelings.” Dunn and Norton questioned whether a person’s level of happiness was tied not to the amount of money possessed by individuals but rather what they did with the money. To test this hypothesis, they studied employees at a small Boston area medical supply company who received bonuses averaging about $5,000. They measured levels of happiness prior to and after receipts of these bonuses using a five-point scale. Norton reports, “The size of the

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