So, you say you got into an Ivy, graduated a laude, landed a top job and
a promotion, and yet you're still not happy? With all these achievements, you should be one of the crazy-happiest people on the planet. It's not rocket science, right?
Well, it may not have anything to do with rocket science, but it does have something to do with the science of the human brain. In a first-of-its-kind study conducted at the University at Buffalo
, researchers found that our best and worst experiences in life aren't linked to individual accomplishments. Rather, it's our social interactions that register most deeply.
According to Shira Gabriel, one of the study's co-authors and an associate professor of psychology at the university, "It was not independent events or individual achievements, like winning awards or completing tasks, that affected participants the most, but the moments when close relationships began or ended; when people fell in love or found a friend; when a loved one died or broke their hearts. In short, it was the moments of connecting to others that touched people's lives the most."
Researchers observed 376 subjects in four different ways to arrive at their findings. In one scenario, college students were asked to discuss their most positive and negative emotional experiences to date -- and an overwhelming majority chose social events over individual ones. In another test, researchers replicated the first experiment using middle-aged subjects and reported the same results.
During the last two experiments, the three professors conducting the study determined that the strong emotional impact of social events reported in the first two studies was not due to the fact that social events were more salient than independent events, but social events did have added emotional punch because they harked back to our human need to belong.
Perhaps the most important lesson learned: The findings contradict what social psychologists have said up until now -- namely, that personal accomplishments mark life's highs and lows. So, the next time you meet one of those annoying people at a party who only talk about where they went to school and which sorority they pledged, it's probably because they're not very happy.