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MBlume comments on Scientific Self-Help: The State of Our Knowledge - Less Wrong

138 Post author: lukeprog 20 January 2011 08:44PM

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Comment author: MBlume 28 January 2011 10:55:57PM *  2 points [-]

Factors that don't correlate much with happiness include: [...] physical attractiveness, inteligence, [...] Factors that correlate strongly with happiness include: [...] love and relationship satisfaction, and work satisfaction.

blinks I would have expected physical attractiveness and intelligence to hugely impact love/relationship satisfaction and work satisfaction, respectively, and from there to happiness -- do the first links not seem to exist?

ETA: Or do they simply mean "holding these other things that correlate more closely with happiness fixed, intelligence and attractiveness don't seem to correlate with happiness," because that I'd buy, but that does not imply, as the original seems to, that attractiveness and intelligence are not good intervention points for increasing happiness.

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 29 January 2011 12:18:52AM *  3 points [-]

I took a course in positive psychology, and this was a significant line of discussion; the links you expect, surprising as they are to almost everyone, do not seem to exist.

Regarding relationships, people of higher perceived value (more beautiful, wealthy, intelligent) are more likely to perceive their significant others as less than equal in these regards, and more often feel like they could do better. Wealthy/beautiful pairs are reasonably common, and in these pairs it is not unusual for both parties to feel like they could do better.

Regarding work satisfaction, intelligence does correlate with performance, and performance with satisfaction, but both are limited correlations, and not necessarily positive. In particular, above an IQ of (IIRC) 115, the correlation plateaus, and eventually becomes negative (locally; IQ 155 is still positively correlated with performance compared to IQ 100, but not compared to IQ 115). These studies have an unfortunate habit of using linear regressions, but the overall picture is that an IQ of about 115 is ideal for happiness, and movement in either direction tends to decrease happiness.

ETA: These are rationales created after the fact to explain various research findings, and to my knowledge, while widely accepted as the causes and individually true, haven't been shown to be the actual cause of the lack of correlations.

ETA2: My hypothesis about IQ versus happiness is that 1 standard deviation above the mean, people are happy that they are smarter than most other people; much more than that, and they start to feel alienated, because they no longer think like other people. I think this is related to The Level Above Mine. If this hypothesis is true, people with an IQ of 130 should be the happiest when raised and kept in a group of people with a mean IQ of 115 and a normal standard deviation.

Edit to remove: "I do not expect this to hold for very high IQ's, since we also know that above 145 IQ starts to be highly correlated with mental disease and personality disorders." See comment below.

Comment author: Perplexed 29 January 2011 12:57:50AM 5 points [-]

we also know that above 145 IQ starts to be highly correlated with mental disease and personality disorders.

Do you have a citation for that? I tried Googling, but the results of that search strongly suggest that the claimed correlation is a myth (an urban legend?).

Comment author: datadataeverywhere 29 January 2011 01:14:55AM 3 points [-]

Good catch. Apparently "IQ ∝mental illness" is a thought I need to uncache. I just scanned the abstracts of a dozen or so highly-cited papers on the subjects, and it seems that while not overwhelming, the evidence weakly supports a negative correlation wtih mental illness.

I also just came up with a list of the 20 most intelligent people I can think of, living or dead (mostly dead). Not a majority, but a very disproportionate majority of that list suffered serious mental illnesses. Perhaps there is a correlation for very high IQ (almost impossible to statistically measure), or more likely, there is a confounding variable (fame, perhaps?).

Comment author: gwern 29 January 2011 02:55:03AM 0 points [-]
Comment author: datadataeverywhere 30 January 2011 04:24:25PM 0 points [-]

I found that along with the papers I was reading, and there were a few papers that supported such conclusions, but the majority do not, and I saw no reason to prefer the papers supporting the conclusion I was expecting to the larger number that did not, so I still consider the issue unresolved, leaning slightly toward "IQ ∝ mental health".