Monday, March 16, 2015

The happiness gap between conservatives and liberals debunked

Given the number of MindBlog posts that have passed on research supporting the standard orthodoxy that conservatives are happier than liberals, I immediately pass on this abstract from Wojcik et al. reporting experiments that prove just the opposite (See also the NYTimes summary of this work.)
Research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals has relied exclusively on self-report measures of subjective well-being. We show that this finding is fully mediated by conservatives’ self-enhancing style of self-report (study 1; N = 1433) and then describe three studies drawing from “big data” sources to assess liberal-conservative differences in happiness-related behavior (studies 2 to 4; N = 4936). Relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs. Our results were consistent across large samples of online survey takers, U.S. politicians, Twitter users, and LinkedIn users. Our findings illustrate the nuanced relationship between political ideology, self-enhancement, and happiness and illuminate the contradictory ways that happiness differences can manifest across behavior and self-reports.

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