Are Happy People Smarter?

07 Jun 2006

I doubt many of my readers follow Robert Scoble (a Microsoft blogger), but in April, he announced a change in policy regarding the comments on his blog - he's moderating them:

Yes, I am now approving every comment here. And I will delete any that don't add value to either my life or the lives of my readers.

His decision isn't particularly newsworthy, but it has spawned an interesting discussion, both in the comments as well as in other blog posts.

I particularly enjoyed reading Kathy Sierra's take on it, angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. What? Negative people can be bad for your brain? Apparently so. She dissects many of the comments left on Robert's blog and points to the scientific facts behind each issue.

For example, one blogger equates happy with vacuous, asserting that happy people are those who are "oblivious to the realities of life and without the ability to think critically." Kathy tells us that science suggests just the opposite:

Anger and negativity usually stem from the anxiety and/or fear response in the brain. In many ways, fear/anger and the ability to think rationally and logically are almost mutually exclusive.

Happines is associated most heavily with the left (i.e. logical) side of the brain, while anger is associated with the right (emotional, non-logical) side of the brain.

She points to many examples, such as the Dalai Lama:

Just about everyone who hears him speak is struck by how, well, happy he is.

She also provides a quote from him:

The fact that there is always a positive side to life is the one thing that gives me a lot of happiness. This world is not perfect. There are problems. But things like happiness and unhappiness are relative. Realizing this gives you hope.

Her entire post is both interesting and thought-provoking.