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The results were surprising even to Grant. A month after the testimonial, the workers were spending percent more time on the phone and bringing in percent more revenue, even though they were using the same script. In a subsequent study, the revenues soared by more than percent. Even simply showing the callers letters from grateful recipients was found to increase their fund-raising draws. When Grant went back and talked to the callers about their improvement, many actively discounted the possibility that the brief encounter with a scholarship student helped.

They were more driven to succeed, even if they could not pinpoint the trigger for that drive. Over the years, Grant has followed up that study with other experiments testing his theories about prosocial motivation — the desire to help others, independent of easily foreseeable payback. In one study, Grant put up two different signs at hand-washing stations in a hospital. Doctors and nurses at the station where the sign referred to their patients used 45 percent more soap or hand sanitizer.

But some of his other research makes the case that prosocial behavior is as applicable in corporate America as it is in a hospital or a university.

And contributing to co-workers can be a substitute for that. The money was set aside for employees in need — someone facing a pregnancy that would put a strain on their finances, for example, or the funeral of a loved one. Interestingly, Grant found that it was not the beneficiaries who showed the most significant increase in their commitment to Borders; it was the donors, even those who gave just a few dollars a week. After all, if the employees at Borders had better benefits and pay, they might not have needed the emergency fund. Maybe I just inherited it. He grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, raised by a lawyer, his father, and a teacher, his mother.

He was an upbeat boy, though socially awkward and burdened by numerous food allergies and strong aversions — to haircuts, to bluejeans, to chocolate. He felt things deeply; those aversions were matched by equally consuming passions. An aspiring basketball player, he would not allow himself to go inside until he made 23 consecutive free throws, even if it meant missing dinner.

That he never made the high-school team is the one failure that still pains him. Grant started significantly losing his hair in his 20s, as if his head were trying to keep pace with his overall precociousness. Now almost entirely bald, he has a striking, monklike look.

He is aware of his own introverted tendencies, and some of his research involves the strengths of introverts at work. For the most part, Grant has more than compensated for the shyness he felt growing up. Once phobic about speaking in public, he forced himself to lecture as much as he could as a graduate student, handing out feedback forms so he could methodically learn from his weaknesses. On the day I followed Grant as he hurried to his office hours at Wharton, I read something on his face that registered as more than just busyness; he seemed anxious.

I wondered whether Grant was driven by the desire to help or a deep fear of disappointing someone. With Grant, every observation is an astute one. The answer turned out to be a combination of the two. Or perhaps that he is channeling his extreme ambition into a feel-good form of achievement. One night Grant forwarded me a grateful e-mail from a student whose life, the student said, changed because of some advice Grant gave her. I commented that most people would be thrilled to receive one note like that in a lifetime.

He agreed to send some my way. That evening, at around , the e-mails started coming — Thank you for our conversation the other day and for your genius.

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I cannot thank you enough for your time and insight. And I have you to thank. After the first 10, I was impressed; when they kept arriving, I was surprised. On and on, until almost 11, my e-mail kept pinging; when I awoke the next morning, I saw that he had forwarded me 41 e-mails from the preceding week, each one of them numbered for my convenience.

Was this compulsive behavior? Givers give without expectation of immediate gain; they never seem too busy to help, share credit actively and mentor generously. Matchers go through life with a master chit list in mind, giving when they can see how they will get something of equal value back and to people who they think can help them. And takers seek to come out ahead in every exchange; they manage up and are defensive about their turf. Most people surveyed fall into the matcher category — but givers, Grant says, are overrepresented at both ends of the spectrum of success: they are the doormats who go nowhere or burn out, and they are the stars whose giving motivates them or distinguishes them as leaders.

The most successful givers, Grant explains, are those who rate high in concern for others but also in self-interest. And they are strategic in their giving — they give to other givers and matchers, so that their work has the maximum desired effect; they are cautious about giving to takers; they give in ways that reinforce their social ties; and they consolidate their giving into chunks, so that the impact is intense enough to be gratifying. The studies are elaborate, the findings nuanced — but it is easy to walk away from the book forgetting the cautionary tales about people who give too much and remembering only the wash of stories about boundless generosity resulting in surprising rewards: a computer programmer who built a Web site at no cost for music fans one of whom turns out to be an influential figure in Silicon Valley ; a financial adviser who travels to take on a client thought to be impoverished only to find that person sitting on a significant fortune ; the writers who start out working free on a project for a friend and somehow end up among the most successful in Hollywood.

I had assumed that Grant, and the other examples of extreme givers in his book, were simply superhuman in one way or another — not only in the acute empathy that makes giving so rewarding for them but also in their unusual focus and stamina and mental-processing speed, traits that allow them to bend time and squeeze in more generosity than the rest of us. Grant, clearly, has some advantages beyond his propensity to help: more than one of his colleagues told me, for example, that when they cannot find the citation for a particular paper, they simply e-mail Grant directly, who is more reliable than Google and almost as fast his childhood friends called him Mr.

But one group distinguished itself, squeezing the grip for 35 seconds after the test of will. They were people who were on the giving end of the other-directedness scale. It seems too simple to assume that Grant just happens to be capable of great discipline across all facets of his life; all those exercises in will, he would argue, feed each other, with one making the others possible. I started ending e-mails by encouraging people to let me know if I could help them in one way or another.

I put more effort into answering random entreaties from students trying to place articles. I encouraged contacts seeking work or connections to see me as a resource. And I did notice that simply avoiding the mental lag of deciding whether to help or not was helpful. The first time I exchanged those e-mails, I usually felt good; after the second exchange on a given topic, I thought perhaps I had done my duty.

But I noticed that every offer of help I initiated or granted engendered four or five e-mails, at the end of which I sometimes felt surly and behind on my work — and then guilty for feeling that way. Worse, those exchanges often even ended with the person on the other end wanting to meet for coffee. Grant is devoted to his family — he has dinner most nights at home and takes his daughter to a preschool activity on many afternoons.

But he also works at least one full day on the weekend, as well as six evenings a week, often well past Once, when Grant was asked to give a talk on productivity, he confessed to a mentor that for all his research, he was still not sure what he did that was any different from anyone else. He did not mean to suggest that everyone should work on weekends; he wanted them to be aware that they were making a choice, maybe even one they felt good about.

Eventually, in ways that are predictable and unpredictable, the bounty returns to them. The path to success is filled with people helping to clear the way. Because one study found that old friends and connections can be even more valuable as resources than current ones — because they intersect with different worlds and therefore have more fresh ideas — Grant has a tickler built into his calendar reminding him, once a month, to get in touch with a contact he likes but with whom he has temporarily lost touch. And he is highly efficient about his giving: he virtually never says no to the five-minute favor, something that will help someone out — an introduction, a quick suggestion — but cost him very little, relative to impact.

In fact, we may go further than this and argue that, despite the higher relative size of the public sector, it is still lower than the optimal level. This may be so for a number of reasons. Environmental quality is to a large extent a global public good. Decisions by separate national governments based on national interests are unlikely to take full account of the global effects unless there is adequate international coordination.

The latter is only starting to emerge and is far from being adequate. Environmental quality is a very long-term problem. Many pollutants remain in the environment for a long time. The warm-house effect could threaten the coastlines of low-lying cities perhaps decades or centuries from now through the melting of polar ice.

In contrast, politicians in both democratic and authoritarian countries are likely to have much shorter time horizons. In assessing the relative benefits of public versus private expenditures, people are likely to overestimate the true importance of the latter, as already discussed above. Affected by the working of relative-income effects including the desire to keep up with the Joneses, people find private spending very important.

However, most people ignore the fact that, if the whole society devotes more resources to supply public goods, on average everyone wil l h ave less to spend on private items, making it easier for one to keep up with others. Research, especially fundamental research, is also largely a global public good and hence is under-funded by national governments. However, once a basic level of consumption has been attained, happiness cannot increase significantly with higher private consumption especially at the social level due to relative-income effects as already discussed given the level of knowledge.

Many of us can easily double our private consumption. For those who cannot, many can halve their consumption without much real loss in happiness. But what is the point? If you are already well fed, well-clothed, well accommodated, increasing private spending does not increase your happiness significantly but imposes significant negative externalities in the form of environmental disruption and relative-income effects. Is it really very important to spend many weeks holidaying in far-away places living in 5-star hotels, while you can walk or jog in nearby parks and read fascinating books or watch interesting programs on TV?

Rather than spending luxuriously, our welfare can certainly increase much more if the cities becomes safer, the environment becomes cleaner, a cure is found for some illness, or the method of stimulation of the brain can be improved for common use. On the quantum leap in welfare with the last method, see Chapter 6. Most of such items need public spending. Due to the inefficiency of public organisations, privatization in certain areas and de-regulation of counter-productive regulations may make a lot of sense.

It is also easy to find particular areas of waste and ineffectiveness in public expenditures. This is so since public expenditure is unlikely to be optimally distributed among different items and also unlikely to be provided in the most efficient way. However, due to the above considerations, the recent global trend towards the checking of public expenditures, especially in the funding of research, may be very negative in terms of social welfare, especially globally and in the long term.

This negative effect may consist to a large extent in the failure to attract talented people to work in the welfare-improving areas of research and the public sector. Top students used to stay to do PhD and remain in the academic world. Now, many good students leave to work for business firms where real talents are largely wasted in competitive rivalry at both the production and consumption levels. True, talents are also needed to have efficiency in production and innovation. However, the very top talents are needed to do research and to serve in the public sector, especially after the satisfaction of basic needs when increases in private consumption without an increase in knowledge are not very welfare-conducive.

Many people are sceptical of the productivity of increased funding for research, being aware of many ill-conceived projects and a lot of published rubbish. However, one gem out of many items of rubbish may still be worthwhile. Moreover, long-term social welfare may be improved by raising the rewards and working conditions of researchers and other public-sector employees so as to attract real talents back from the business sector.

The market fails here partly because of the public-goods external effect and partly because of factors like relative-income effects also a form of external effects discussed above. An example is a factory polluting the air without paying for the damages imposed on the society.

Based on the discussion of this chapter, a strong case may be made for international cooperation to dramatically increase public spending on global public goods including environmental protection and research. A few examples may be given to indicate that a lot more research is needed to increase welfare. The very topic of the appropriate size of the public sector, regarded by Feldstein as the central public finance question, is much under-researched. For example, few if any researchers relate the important issue of relative income to this central question. While we have discussed this and other related issues above, a lot more quantitative studies are needed.

While studies on the effects of specific drugs and ingredients have been done, it seems that a general study tracing the different types of food, drugs, and activities taken by a big enough sample of people at least in tens of thousands of different ages and health conditions not just those hospitalized over a long period at least in decades to discover the desirable and undesirable, short and long-run effects, may be most rewarding. Though the study would be very costly, we would gain very useful knowledge on many thousands of things simultaneously.

The stimulation of certain pleasure centres in the brain can induce intense pleasure without the effect of diminishing marginal utility. This has been known since the mid s. Why has the method not been perfected for common use? See Chapter 6 for details. Despite the negative evidence discussed in Chapter 2 and Section 4. This increases the importance of using the more interpersonally comparable measure of happiness proposed in Ng a. However, we remain convinced that happiness could be increased by shifting resources from the largely competitive private consumption to items of public spending that benefit the whole world for a long time.

While noting that the rat race for material growth may be welfare reducing, we are not anti-growth. Instead of hoping for a slower growth or even a depression, as some environmentalists do, a healthy growth with an appropriate increase in environmental protection measures seems a much superior option.

Moreover, if economic growth is conducive to a higher degree of civilisation by providing more resources to support scientific and technological advances conducive to happiness, it may be happiness-improving despite some negative environmental effects. For example, the advance in science and its applications to medicine, engineering, etc. The development of the Westminster and other forms of democratic government and the rule of law, the prevalence of modern communications and social interaction have also helped create a freer and more peaceful world. The understanding of the working of the market mechanism has contributed to the collapse of the communist totalitarian system and to the end of the Cold War.

On the importance of primary school education, see Section 7. Looking into the future, one can be reasonably confident that further advances in these and related areas will be forthcoming. Moreover, there are likely to be significant or even dramatic increases in happiness from sources most people do not dream of now. For example, the techniques of electrical brain stimulation discussed in Chapter 6 and genetic engineering Chapter 7 could be used, after more intensive experimentation and with careful management, to increase happiness by quantum leaps.

Despite the above-mentioned promises, it remains true that a pure increase in GNP even without any deterioration in income distribution may be happiness-reducing unless environmental protection and other happiness-improving measures are facilitated. In rich countries, what is important is not simply growth in GNP and the resulting higher consumption per head but how happiness-improving measures environmental protection, scientific advances, etc. Thus, despite the excess costs excess burden, administrative, compliance, and policing costs of raising public revenue, more public expenditures in the right areas including research may yet be most-happiness increasing.

This is especially so in view of the importance of environmental disruption effects, relative-income effects and diamond effects with the associated burden-free or at least less burdensome taxes which may be expected to be increasing in importance absolutely and relatively. After learning the various factors that correlate and also those that do not correlate with happiness, perhaps one may learn to become happier.

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In this chapter, let us elaborate on this and also discuss other lessons we may learn. On the other hand, a high expectation may increase unhappiness when it is not realised. The higher the expectation relative to the realised level, the higher the frustration. Most teenage tennis players would be thrilled by being able to qualify not to mention making the final for any of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

However, the world first ranked 18 year-old Martina Hingis virtually collapsed and cried uncontrollably in the arms of her mother and in full view of thousands of spectators and millions of TV viewers, after losing the French Open final to Steffi Graf, a match Martina expected to win.

To be happy, one should have a realistic expectation high enough to sustain the urge to achieve but low enough to have a good chance of being largely fulfilled. Moreover, one should try to be philosophical when faced with unfulfilled expectation to avoid the Hingis syndrome. In particular, with respect to material wants, one should keep in mind the unimportance and ineffectiveness of high consumption for happiness and the happiness-decreasing at least at the margin for rich countries inborn animal spirit for accumulation discussed in Chapter 2.

People with a purpose in life, including those who have a religious belief, are happier. If you are a believer in one of the major religions, consider yourself lucky. We seem to have too logical a mind to believe in something without sufficient evidence. We are also too much influenced by Darwinism. True, evolution does not prove that God does not exist. God could have created the world before evolution took place. God could have endowed us with our mind which cannot so far if it could ever be explained scientifically. Thus, we find it reasonable to be an agnostic on this.

If the world was created by God, we should be thankful not only for our creation, but also for making the world so complicated so that we have fun pondering, discovering, puzzling over the unending mysteries of life and the universe, and above all, the world knot — mind. This may include but need not be confined to working at the forefront of science to discover new knowledge. One may unravel the mysteries to oneself by just reading about the knowledge others discovered and reported in newspapers, magazines, and books.

In so doing, one increases happiness in a number of ways. First, we are the most intelligent species on earth and survive the severe competition of natural selection mainly on our superior intelligence and better knowledge. Thus, we are born with a high degree of curiosity.

Discovering and learning new knowledge satisfy our curiosity instinct and hence make us feel good. Secondly, your better knowledge helps you to achieve happiness better.

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For example, reading this book satisfies your curiosity, increase your knowledge, and help you to become happier. Thirdly, your better knowledge may make you perform better in your job and in your everyday life so as to help others. And these should in turn make you fee l h appier. Thus, rather than spending most of your leisure time watching soap operas or sports on TV, consider spending some time reading books. While money spent on competitive materialistic consumption is counter-productive to happiness socially, the money spent on a useful book may be worth a lot.

Moreover, even if you do not have the budget for buying new books, you can always rely on your local libraries. Most people spend too much time watching TV programs that entertain more immediately and not enough on reading books that may entertain less immediately but have longer lasting effects on happiness. This is fine provided that you are not too self-interested in your pursuit of happiness. The self-interested pursuit of happiness to the disregard of other people almost certainly makes one fall into the trap of the hedonistic paradox.

Apart from possibly causing harms on others, one ends up unpopular and unhappy. Some people, like Mother Theresa, put helping others so high in their objective that their main purpose in life is to help others. They probably end up not only giving the greatest in comparison to others help to others but also achieving the greatest happiness for themselves. However, not many people can have such a high level of selflessness. We certainly do not pretend that we are close to or even dare to aspire to such a sainthood level. For most people, what could be achieved is perhaps the second level.

This is to help others directly or indirectly in one or more of your principal activities in pursuit of your own happiness, as discussed below. In the choice of occupation, most people put the most emphasis on financial rewards. This would be right if money were very important for happiness. Since money is not that important, perhaps one should give more emphasis to working conditions, relationships with colleagues, job satisfaction, and usefulness to others. This precludes any occupation detrimental to others. One may make a lot of money by stealing, robbing, or fraudulent activities.

But one cannot expect to become happy doing so. Think about it. Even those who win fortunes in lottery prizes fail to increase their happiness. This is a legal and socially accepted way to get rich overnight. The winners are not troubled by a quilt conscience. If one tries to get rich by fraudulent activities, he may be caught. Even if he gets away with it, he probably has a quilt conscience, if not consciously, certainly subconsciously. How can he expect to be happy! True, due to our inborn accumulation instinct, it is difficult for most of us to be perfectly honest and not tempted by the lure of money.

However, after learning the real important things for happiness, one should at least try to shift towards the direction of honesty. At least when other things are not significantly inferior, one should prefer an occupation that is more useful to others. This choice will not only benefit others, but will increase your own happiness by increasing your job satisfaction and self esteem which are much more important to happiness than money. One may query the true social usefulness of the above advice when the indirect effects on the supply and demand for different occupations are taken into account.

Suppose more people choose to work in those occupations e. Would not this increase the difficulty of prospective researchers in getting jobs and decrease their effective salaries and increase the incomes of the remaining tax-evasion advisers? Let us answer this in three steps, with the last step being the most important. First, we do not expect our advice will be influential enough as to cause significant effects on the rewards of the different occupations. For this case, the effects are negligible. Secondly, suppose that the effects are significant.

Then, while the effects on rewards before we take into account the next factor are undesirable, the effects on activities are desirable. Specifically, harmful activities like tax-evasion are reduced and beneficial activities like research are increased. Thirdly, the undesirable effects on rewards take account of only the effects of the advice on the supply of people to the various occupations side but fail to take account of the effects on the demand side. If our advice is roughly equal in its effects on the supply side as on the demand side, there will be no significant effects on relative rewards.

However, the beneficial effects on activities reducing harmful activities and increasing beneficial activities will be doubled. In fact, if our arguments are fully followed, at least the demand-side effects on researchers should dominate, as we are in favour of substantial increases in public spending on research. If salespersons are more helpful and friendly to their clients, they make others and themselves happier as well as being more successful in their jobs. If employers are more considerate to their employees, they make the employees and themselves happier and their businesses more successful by having a team of happier and more cooperative employees.

If tradespeople and professionals provide better services and avoid overcharging their clients, they make their clients and themselves happier and will also become more successful in their trades at least in the long run. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages. The message is quite true. His point is to emphasise the importance of motivation through self-interest and the role of market mechanism in coordinating the self-interested activities of people working in different professions and in different capacities.

As each is trying to do well propelled mainly by self-interest , everyone gets served well through market coordination. For the coordination of the diverse and complicated economic activities at the social level, the importance of relying mainly on self-interest motivation and market coordination must be fully recognized.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and its East-European Satellites and the transformation of China into a market economy testify to the inefficiency and even tragedy of the alternative to the market. The more the individual can be aware of this trap and hence adjusts their behaviour accordingly, the more happiness they can achieve for themself and for others.

This is particularly true since, apart from the sphere of economic activities that are efficiently coordinated through the market, there are other spheres important to our happiness where the market fails or cannot be relied to do the job. First, the market fails or fails to perform perfectly in areas of economic activities where the market does not exist for some reasons, where competition is not very effective, where workers and consumer ignorance is important, and where there are large external effects like pollution.

Before these market failures are remedied by appropriate government actions which may also be rather costly , the public consciousness or others-regarding spirit of the individual wil l h elp to limit the inefficiencies. Secondly, there are non-economic spheres important to our happiness. Few people would like to live in a perfectly efficient society if all people in the society are perfectly self-interested without any regard to the interest and feelings of others. Give it sufficient nourishment by having a healthy diet, sufficient exercise by doing both daily and weekly exercises, sufficient rest by not over-working, over-indulging, and by having enough sleep.

Have a regular time in going to sleep. This does not only make you healthy but also help avoid the problem of unable to sleep properly. Spending the norma l h ours for sleeping on studying even for exams , working, or entertaining is most certainly bad for happiness in the long run. It is better to do these things in normal waking hours. Studying late after midnight for an exam next morning is the most stupid thing to do. You might be able to go through your notes or books more but likely to remember less the next day when you suffer from the lack of sleep.

The importance of regular exercises cannot be over-emphasized. These should be started as early as possible in age. Most people ignore this when young, relying on their healthy youth. Only when they discover some health problems in their middle age that they decide to start regular exercises. True, better late than never. However, your health will be much better if you have been exercising regularly right from your youth.

In their middle and older ages, most people ourselves included regret starting regular exercises too late in life. We hope that our young readers will not make the same mistake. Thus, we are giving this advice at the risk of being regarded as being paternalistic. Many people may be too lazy and not disciplined enough to stick to exercising themselves regularly. Two points may help here.

First, in most cases, once you get over the initial inertia, you really enjoy yourself while and after exercising, especially for people doing work sitting down. Thus, exercising not only increase your long-term health and happiness, it often also increase your short-term happiness.

Secondly, once you have the determination to establish daily and weekly exercise routines, it becomes much easier to stick to regular exercises. Thus, make up your mind and start today! Remember at least that they are all far more important to your happiness than more money. Also, recognize that, more so than relationships outside of family, relationships inside the family is even more characterised by the principle: generous giving without expecting returns will in fact yield the greatest returns, in happiness if not in money!

This is true because family members are closer and the relationships last longer. Blood is thicker than water. Treasure and cultivate good relationships. Recognize that no one is perfect. After family, friends, especially close friends, are very important for happiness. The presence of good friends increases positive moods and alleviate negative ones like depression. On the latter, see Sapolsky Many people have close friends they can confide in more so than family members. So, treasure and cultivate friendship almost as much as family relationships.

We believe in the equality between the sexes, both in fact and as required for justice. By equality in fact, we mean that, though the male is superior to the female in some activities and vice versa, no one sex is clearly superior to the other overall. However, recognising equality does not mean that we should be blind to the important differences between the sexes.

Knowing such differences is important in dealing with personal relationships appropriately and may be crucial in avoiding unnecessary unhappiness, as well as in achieving real equality in the presence of differences. For example, consider a small, though not unimportant, difference. On average, women need to spend more time and use more space in the toilet than man. Thus, with the same number and size of female and male toilets, queues for female toilets are typically several times longer than those for the male toilets, if any.

Recognising this difference, real equality does not mean that females and males should be entitled to the same number and size of toilets. Real equality does not require that the waiting time for female and male toilets should be equalized. This ignores the costs of supplying toilets and the longer time spent in the toilet by women. Real equality requires that the happiness of everyone should have the same weight in social decisions, as argued in Ng a, Appendix B. It does not require that everyone should end up equally happy or rather equally unhappy.

Some differences between the sexes are obvious. Men are generally stronger physically and better in maths. More on this last point below. Women are generally better in languages, have higher emotional quotients and a sharper sense of smell. Readers may also wish to read Gray on improving communication between women and men. A particular difference the understanding of which is of special importance for happiness relates to the preference for variety in sexual partners. In Section 2. Our preferences in sexual matters are no exceptions, if not even more so, as sexual matters directly affect reproduction.

A male requires only minimal investment courting and intercourse to pass on his genes. Thus, if a man have sex with many different women, he has more chances of passing on his genes. A man who only likes to have sex with a single partner has far less chance of passing on his genes to many children. In time, through natural selection, non-variety-seeking genes were competed to extinction. Thus, this Bateman-Trivers effect Trivers dictates that men are universally born with a strong desire for sexual variety. Recognising this simple biological fact allows variety-seeking men to have less guilt feeling and their spouses or partners to feel less unloved on discovering the affairs as well as reducing the dirty-linen factor in democratic politics on which, see below.

In our view, this simple point is so important to happiness that it should be taught to al l h igh school students. On the other hand, females require big parental investment nine months of pregnancy plus many years of breast feeding and further care to pass on their genes. A woman can increase the number of offspring not by promiscuous sex but by securing the parental investment of the male partner. In terms of the distinction between preference and happiness, while a man prefers variety, his happiness may be better served by having a lasting relationship with one partner. Though few men, even after realising this, can resist the inborn preference for variety completely, perhaps some may choose to locate the optimal trade-off point somewhat in favour of a lasting relationship.

The institution of family is not just good for bringing up children and for women, but also extremely important for the happiness of men. If women fight for sexual equality with men by trying to be as promiscuous, they are unlikely to gain happiness.

They need to have an established relationship with security for bringing up children. They may make their partners have less need for variety by providing them with more satisfying relationship than what could be obtained by occasional encounters. It is true that women are not completely free of the desire for sexual variety. In fact, recent studies show that women, when in those days during their menstrual cycles that are open to conception, find strong, masculine men more attractive; in other periods, they find gentler men more attractive.

Having a long-term partner who can help the woman to bring up children; 2.

Having the genes of a strong man. This suggests that some cheating on the long-term partner must exist. However, due to the disproportionate differences in parental investments between the sexes, the stronger preference for sexual variety of men is a logical necessity as well as a well-established fact. The importance for sexual variety for men has also been amply documented; e.

Symons , Chapter 7; Rancour-Laferriere , Chapter 22 and references therein. Instead of recognising the importance of sex to happiness and the fact that there are differences in sexual preferences, most major religions and moral teachings in the world, including Buddhism, Christianity, and Confucianism, are rather conservative, if not repressive, with respect to many aspects of sexuality, and certainly against the seeking of sexual variety.

There was no intrinsic value to sexuality. Moreover, the adult world in general, parents in particular, also typically adopt an exclusive and negative attitude on sexual matters towards children. Most children thus grow up to regard sex as something secretive or even dirty. The conflict between biological need and moral inhibition results in sexua l h ypocrisy and the feeling of guilt, consciously or unconsciously, leading to further psychological and social problems.

See, e. This hypocrisy also tends to increase hypocrisy and hence reduce honesty in other spheres, for obvious reasons. This is contrary to the requirements of a good society and to happiness. See Reiss , pp. As late as , a prominent public figure in England had to resign simply for being caught by police for soliciting prostitutes. The situation becomes so absurd that, e. Hopefully, such a dismal situation may gradually change after the failure in of the US Congress to indict President Bill Clinton for his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

The fact that, on average, women are better in languages and men in mathematics is obvious, though seldom recognized openly. The contrived silence is well-intentioned and also have some positive effects like the avoidance of discouraging girls from studying maths and sciences. However, we believe that the negative effects of not recognising this important difference openly far outweigh the positive ones. Let us give a real-life example of our younger daughter. She was among the very top students in her grade and could choose whichever subject to study at university.

We did not put pressure on her choice, believing that it is best for her to make up her own mind. However, her teachers at that select private college for girls strongly encouraged if not pressured top students to do sciences and related areas like medicine and engineering in contrast to humanities. Later, she realised that her interest lies really in languages.

Moreover, she could not out-compete the few top boys in her class, who seemed to have more natural talents doing maths and sciences. After spending four years getting an honours degree in science, she started again from first-year linguistics. This is a right choice. It is better to not really completely waste a few years than to be stuck in something uninterested for life! She is now completing her PhD in linguistics. We do not want to discourage girls from doing maths and sciences if they are really interested and talented in these areas.

We did not raise any objection when our younger daughter decided to do science. Obviously, there are girls who are so talented. Madam Currie is usually cited as an example. However, for one Madam Currie, there are many dozens male Nobel laureates in sciences. This may partly reflect the heavier responsibility of women in bringing up children and their other socia l h andicaps. However, the fact that most girls are more talented in languages and human relationships than in logical thinking is indisputable. Inordinately encouraging girls to do studies they are not talented in is not the right way to help them to overcome any remaining handicaps.

The fact that women are better in languages also has a biological foundation. Due to the biological necessity of breast feeding and some other reasons, it was the mother who was close to the children and hence children learned languages mainly from the mother than from the father. The males were typically outside hunting for animals and hence need to have a brain better in recognising directions, making them better in geometry and logical thinking. Nowadays, such biological division of labour is less important. However, our characteristics evolved over thousands of generations do not change overnight.

Not recognising such important differences is not a realistic attitude and may be much contrary to the pursuit of happiness. Even if money does not buy happiness to a significant extent, wise consumption choice may yet increase happiness. For example, if health is important for happiness, the choice to consume healthier products may significantly increase happiness with the same amount of spending, while the higher consumption of unhealthy products may actually decrease happiness.

Thus, information on healthy products and lifestyles are important. In economic analysis, the basic optimisation formula for consumption choice is that the marginal utility usefulness of the last dollar or cent spent on each good should be equalized across all goods consumed. Assuming divisibility of goods e. If it is not satisfied, you can increase your satisfaction by increasing consumption of the good with higher marginal utility per dollar and reducing consumption of the good with lower marginal utility per dollar, maintaining total spending unchanged.

While economists largely assume that a consumer is rational and knows how to maximize their utility in consumption choice, psychologists find many instances where individuals make inconsistent, non-rational, or utility-decreasing choices. It is not our intention here to discuss such choices. We believe that they can be largely explained either by the non-inclusion of some relevant factors such as regret, excitement, hopefulness or by individual mistakes.

Rather, we wish to mention a few common mistakes some well known and some never discussed the avoidance of which may help the reader to increase their happiness somewhat. The unit price of buying the larger quantity is only half that of buying the smaller quantity. To believe that it must thus be desirable to buy the larger amount may be a mistake. The consumer may not be able to eat that much bananas before they become rotten. Cutting off other fruits consumed may involve too much a sacrifice of variety and a balanced diet.

For non-perishable goods, the more common fallacy is not to take advantage of the economies of large purchase, especially for those on low incomes. A budget-tight consumer may think that they cannot afford to buy in bulk even at substantial discount. However, in the long run, it is more economical to have some savings so that one may take advantage of buying most non-perishable items at the lowest possible unit price, provided that this does not involve so large quantities as to make the costs of storage prohibitive.

Many consumers on low incomes fail to take advantage of this simple principle of economy. For consumers on high incomes, the reversed fallacy is more likely to be made. It is likely that low-income consumers should buy A and high-income consumers should buy B. This is so because the time and trouble of changing the light bulb frequently are valued higher by the high-income consumers.

However, some high-income consumers fail to recognize that they could afford the higher quality at higher prices, partly due to the confusion of the simple calculation of proportions. Again, low-income consumers should probably buy A, if at all, and high-income consumers should probably buy B. Doubling the price gives only 1. If a rich person needs two units of hi-fi system, they may as well buy two units of B. There is a correct law of large numbers that implies among others something like this. If the number of times head has turned up far exceeds that of tail turning up, the next toss will likely be tail due to the law of large numbers.

This is a definite fallacy. If the coin may be biased, then the fact that head has turned up more often suggests that it is head rather than tail that will likely turn up in the next toss. For example, having learned that many more boys than girls have been born among relatives and friends, many people believe that the next baby expected is more likely to be a girl. Similarly, after being unlucky for many times in a row at the casino, a gambler may believe that they will likely be lucky the next time round and stack a large sum of money, quite possibly to their peril.

The fact that the gambler has lost many times before does not suggest that they will likely be lucky the next time round. Rather, it suggests that they are unlikely to win in that form of gambling. Many people believe that the following method ensures winning in gambling. We want to show that this is a fallacy. For simplicity of argument, we shall assume something favourable to the belief. Virtually in all forms of gambling, the gambler faces odds less than fair.

The supposed sure-win method goes like this. Counting your previous losses, you win a dollar. So, you see, you always win, a dollar, and a dollar, … towards infinity. All casinos impose minimum and maximum bets on each machine and table. For most people of average wealth, the more important restriction is the financial constraint. One may not be able to double the bet for more than a dozen times or so. Most people underestimate the speed at which the doubling gets into astronomical figures.

This can be seen by a simple calculation: 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, , , , So, doubling a dollar 10 times reaches a sum in excess of a thousand dollars. Thus, doubling a dollar by 20 times reaches a sum in excess of a million dollars. Few people can afford to bet that sum. Doubling a US dollar by 50 times reaches a sum in excess of a thousand million million dollars which is many times the GNP of the whole world!

Of course, the probability that one will lose a bet for 20 times in a row is also very low, about one in a million. However, when this unlikely event occurs and the gambler has no more money, he loses a million dollars, not one dollar. Thus, if you use the above method to gamble, you are likely to keep winning a dollar after a dollar. In terms of expected win, your expectation is still exactly zero, whether you gamble a long time to win many dollars or a short time to win fewer dollars. For the latter case, your chance of losing a lot of money is very small, but still exactly offsetting your likely win which is also very small.

The fact that the expected value of the above gamble is exactly zero does not mean that you do not lose anything. You lose security. Unless you are a risk lover or enjoy the process of gambling very much, you are likely to lose in happiness terms, as you lose time and incur risk and anxiety. In addition, most if not all forms of gambling involve unfair odds to the gamblers.

Not surprising as casinos, horse racing, lotteries, etc. Thus, you also lose money. Our advice is thus: avoid gambling. If you enjoy gambling very much, perhaps you may just gamble small, viewing losses as fees for admission to cinemas. Many gamblers continue to gamble away their money due to their mistaken overestimation of their chances of winning. This is probably related to their underestimation of the smallness of the small probability involved. This in turn is related to their underestimation of the bigness of the large number of alternatives involved.

For example, if the game is to choose 4 numbers out of 64 to match the randomly selected 4, most people do not realize that the odd of a match is nearly as small as one in a million 1 in , to be exact. To train oneself to be free of this fallacy of overestimation of the odd of winning, it is useful to consider the following thought experiment. Suppose a thin sheet of paper of 0. A book of sheets or pages of such thin paper is only 1 cm or much less than half an inch in thickness. How thick will the folded paper become after folds? As a thought experiment, the practical difficulty of actually folding it so many times does not arise.

None of the above is even remotely close to the correct answer. The solution to this problem is similar to the doubling of your bet discussed above. But this time it will be even more astonishing to you, even after you have read above about the fast speed such doubling gets to astronomical figures. As before, folding 10 times increases the thickness by 1, times recalling 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, , , , For simplicity, let us forget the odd figure of 24 and just say that the thickness increases by one thousand times after 10 folds.

From 0. At the 20 th fold, it has increased by another thousand times to metres or 0. At the 30 th fold, it becomes km; at the 40 th fold, , km; at the 50 th fold, ,, km; and at the 60 th fold, ,,, km. In comparison, the Moon is only , km away and the Sun is only ,, km from the Earth. So it means that, by the 42 th fold, the thickness of the paper is more than the distance from the Earth to the Moon. By the 51 th fold, it is thicker than the distance from the Earth to the Sun. By the 60 th fold, it is many times thicker than the whole solar system!

At the 70 th fold, it is million million km; at the 80 th fold, it is , million million km; at the 90 fold, it is million million million km. We all know that the fastest thing in the universe is light. It travels at , km per second, reaching the Moon from the Earth in just over a second, and reaching the Sun in seconds or about 8 and a third minutes.

Even at this absolutely fastest speed, it travels only 9. This distance is called a light-year. So it takes light to travel more than 10 years to cover the thickness at 70 th fold and an astonishing 10,, years or more to cover the thickness at 90 th fold. While many people, influenced by the accumulation instinct and the consumption oriented society, put too much emphasis on making money, they also make some opposite mistakes in their consumption choices. In particular, they tend to be too much concerned with present consumption and take inadequate care for the future or have excessive discount rates.

This is widely noted, including by economists. For example, Pigou , p. A discount on future consumption, income, and any other monetary values is rational as a dollar now can be transformed into more than a dollar in the future. A discount on future utility may still be rational if the realisation of the future utility is uncertain.

For healthy people, this uncertainty is usually very small. Discounting the future for more than these acceptable reasons is probably irrational. A manifestation of this irrationality is the insufficient amount of savings for old age, necessitating compulsory and heavily subsidised superannuation schemes. We came across an extreme example of such under-saving during a survey regarding how much people would be willing to save more if the rate of interest were higher Ng The question implicitly assumed that everyone did some saving, as the answers were in terms of how many percentages more one would save.

One subject declared that he did not save anything. He still said that he could not be induced to save anything even at annual interest rates of hundreds of percent. We were careful enough to find out that this healthy-looking young man was not expecting early death from a terminal disease or the like. The mistake of not giving sufficient allowance for the future may have a biological explanation. Though we are the most intelligent and most rational species on earth, we are still not perfectly rational. This is so because rationality is costly to program. For example, an important aspect of rationality requires the individual not only to take account of current costs and benefits but also those in the future with appropriate discount for the uncertainty on their realisation for costs and benefits in welfare terms, or a discount at market interest rate for monetary costs.

The storage of food by ants and the burial of nuts by squirrels are hard-wired instincts, not deliberate choices. If calculated choices are made by animals, they are largely confined to sizing up the current situation to decide the best move at the moment, like fight or flight. However, we know that we are endowed with some such faculty. Nevertheless, since this advanced faculty is almost completely absent in most other species, it is natural to expect that it is not fully developed even in our own species.

Moreover, different members of our species may be endowed with different degrees of such faculty. The existence of a significant proportion of our species that do not possess a full telescopic faculty is thus not surprising. In fact, that we do not possess a full telescopic faculty also explains why we still need the animal spirit of blind accumulation. The accumulation instinct imperfectly makes up for the deficiency of not looking ahead adequately.

We already mentioned this earlier. Here we want to relate this point to the best consumption choice over time. Eating sufficiently salty, sweet, or tasty food now may yield more utility now than the slight health hazard involved. Shifting to healthier food may incur too big a loss in present pleasure. However, our taste will adjust to the blander and coarser but healthier food. The first author changed from white bread to wholemeal bread a long time ago on health reason. Initially, he was not really sure that the gain in being healthier justified the loss in taste.

However, after months of eating wholemeal bread, he began to enjoy that more than white bread even just on taste. Those still on white bread are strongly urged to shift.

The Road to Happiness by Professor Yew-Kwang Ng & Siang Ng

Also, making children accustomed to white bread may be very unwise. Thus, the long-term utility of seeing the blue sea may not be that high as it lowers the utility of seeing other less impressive waters in the future. However, most people, including ourselves, fail to take adequate account of such effects. When we were on our first leave, we visited the top attractions in the world like the Great Wall, the Niagara Falls , and the Grand Canyon.

After that, sightseeing is no longer exciting. Thus, another Chinese sage advised that one should eat sugar-cane from the less tasty end, proceeding to the more tasty parts gradually. The above consideration suggests that, to maximize happiness in the long run, one should start with not too high a consumption level so as to be able to gradually increase the level over time. In this perspective, children of the rich may really suffer a disadvantage.

They start off being accustomed to very high level of consumption which they may find it difficult to surpass, hence suffering in happiness terms. Thus, wise rich people do not splash their children with money. But there are difficulties for the rich in limiting the consumption levels of their children, due to comparison with those of the parents and with peers. This may also partly explain why there is not much difference in happiness terms between the rich and the poor. There is a consideration that qualifies the above principle of starting from a low consumption level.

If one is handicapped by seriously deficiencies earlier in life, one may never catch up later. This point is clearer for the healthy growth of the body, but is as important for the other two aspects. We already noted in Chapter 3 the importance of personality for happiness. While personality may have a large genetic factor, upbringing and social influences probably also have a significant role to play.

The importance of learning while young cannot be over-emphasized. Due to biological reasons, childhood is devoted to learning. Natural selection thus ensures that learning ability is at its peak at childhood and youth. If a young bird is not exposed to hearing adult birds sing during that 40 days, it will be unable to sing even after months of exposure later on. It is also well-known that a much higher proportion of young than older macaques a type of monkeys learn to wash potatoes and separate sand from wheat using water from a fellow macaque Imo.

For humans, if one does not learn a language from a young age, one always has an accent no matter how long one lives in a country speaking that language. The learning is imperfect after a certain age. When one gets older still, the ability to learn decreases dramatically.

The above considerations mean that it is important to have adequate education, exercise, love, nutrients, etc. The children of absolutely poor suffer from insufficient education and nutrients and the very rich suffer from starting from excessively high levels of consumption. We hope that some researchers will do studies to establish this conjecture.


The young are not only at their peak of learning potential, they are also at their peak in enjoyment potential at least for those forms of enjoyment that do not require long learning. When we take into account such learning and experience effects, the capacity of enjoyment may peak at late middle age, if not later. We are in our mid fifties and have never been happier. For example, the young derive more intense pleasure from eating delicious food.

Love and respect – the secret to a happy marriage

While older people have less intensities in such pleasures, they are somewhat compensated by suffering from pain also less intensely, though they may have more occasions of being in pain due to failing health. Perhaps the lower intensities of pleasure and pain of the old are genetically programmed as the old have less to lose in fitness terms. Having largely completed the task of passing their genes to offspring, their remaining task is only that of giving advice. Due to their higher learning and enjoyment potentials, the happiness value of the time of the young is likely to be higher than that of older people, despite the lower wage rates of the young.

This means that it is all the more important for the young not to waste their time idling. They should use their time wisely mainly to learn and enjoy while they are at their peaks of such potentials. Should the young then not waste their time working as their wage rates are low? Not necessarily, even if the young can borrow against their future higher incomes.

If they cannot, obviously they may have to work to have some cash to spend, if they do not have enough from their parents. Even if they can borrow, it may still be intertemporally optimal for them to work at low wage rates, using their valuable time of high learning and enjoyment potentials, for at least two reasons. First, the young can also learn from working and also accumulate accredited working experience which may increase their potential for finding better jobs in the future.

Secondly, the principle of gradual improvement requires the young to start with not only moderate consumption level subject to sufficient nutrition standards , it also requires them to start with a reasonably harsh life in general. Having to do some work when young adds to the harshness of life and makes them able to appreciate the comforts of life better in the future.

While doing some work may be desirable for the young, excessive amount of work and excessively harsh work may be inappropriate. Apart from robbing them of their opportunity for learning and enjoyment, excessive work may adversely affect the personality development of the young. Thus, we are again likely to have an inverted U-shaped relationship between happiness and work for the young; in fact not just for the young.

The adaptation effect and the related principle of gradual improvement also mean that the widely adopted practice of ensuring complete quietness when the baby is sleeping is quite wrong. A former colleague of ours went to the extreme length of taking the receiver off his telephone to ensure no disturbance while the baby was sleeping. Such extreme comfort is likely to be very detrimental to the long-term happiness of the baby.

When a person is brought up requiring absolute quietness for sleeping, working, etc. Moreover, they will become less able to tolerate disturbances and also likely to be less able to befriend and live with others amicably. It is much better to let the baby start adapting to the noise and other disturbances and discomforts of normal life right from the beginning. Again, we have an inverted U-shaped relationship between long-run happiness and the amount of comfort in life. The rich are likely to provide excessive comfort to their children.

The above considerations also partly explain why inequality in income distribution is bad for happiness. On the importance of equality for health and happiness, see Eckersley , p. Here, we do not discuss the issues of efficiency versus equality which are covered in Ng a. Two facts are apparently contrary to the principle of gradual improvement as well as to the economic principle of equating the marginal utility of the last dollar spent on each item.

The first is the practice of having occasional feasts. Moreover, this practice is more widespread and regarded as more important in poor countries. Why having feasts while they do not even have enough nutrition over the rest of the year? Why not spread the consumption of food more evenly so that the more urgent need of having more nutrition over the year can be met at the expense of cutting down the excessive amount of food consumed in feasts that may be a health hazard?

When people are poor and cannot eat delicious food as much as they like most of the time, they attach a high value on being able to eat as much as they like, even if only occasionally. The practice among Malaysian Chinese about three decades ago when we were young and the people then fairly poor, with most people undernourished but no one starving, is about once a month.

There were about eight traditional festivals that were celebrated by big feasts. Some people had smaller monthly feasts associated with ancestor worshipping.