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Richard Wiseman


That although 50% of your overall happiness is genetically predetermined, there are things you can do to improve, and they are not necessarily what you'd find in conventional self-help books.

Trying to push negative thoughts out of your mind doesn't work - you end up thinking about them more. Talking to a sympathetic listener is either no help or can make you feel worse. But if you spend a few minutes a day writing about how you feel, you get a substantial boost in well-being. Why? Perhaps because talking tends to be unstructured and disorganized, but if you write things down you tend to be more systematic and analytical, and you have an expectation of a result or conclusion, so there is more chance of working out a solution.

Keep a gratitude diary as often as possible: simply writing down 5 things you are grateful for reminds you. Like walking into a room smelling of fresh bread, you quickly get accustomed to the pleasant aroma. But if you go outside and then return, you notice the smell again.

And force yourself to smile - if you want to cheer yourself up, behave like a happy person, even if you don't feel like it.

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First be likeable - Dale Carnegie's basic lesson. And do this by showing a genuine interest in others around you. Do them a small favour , and, get them to do you a small favour - people prefer simple thought processes, so their brains go something like "Well I helped him, and would only help people I like, so I must like him..."

People like those similar to themselves, sometimes in what seems like absurd ways - as well as obvious things like age colour race etc, people prefer others with names that start with the same letter as their's, or were born in same year, or even the same month (and they are not aware of these biases)positive comm

And a brief touch on the upper arm has a big effect on how much help someone will give you (or how big a tip you get) Works on women as well - gentle touch perceived as sign of high status.

Get people to make modest donations to charity, and larger ones will follow. Get employees to agree to small changes in working conditions, and bigger ones are accepted more easily.

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Scarcity - biscuits taken from a jar that is nearly empty taste significantly better than those from a full jar - empty suggests that scarce, and so valuable.

Psychologist Arthur Aron (of the adrenalin bridges) devised test to see whether disclosing personal info to a person made you feel closer to them. The 'Sharing Game' started with standard cocktail party conversation openers, and then quickly moving into more revealing Q's (Who wd you invite to a dinner party if you cd invite anyone who had ever lived? Name 2 ways in which you feel lucky? What is something you've always wanted to do but haven't done yet? Imagine you are about to become close friends with someone: what is the most impt thing about you they need to know?)

Everyone experiences negative events at some stage of lives, and, if someone else partly resp for event, you think of anger and retribution. Given that most people understand that those thoughts are useless, how shd you deal with neg emotions? Turns out by far best and quickest way is to spend a few minutes focusing on the benefits that flowed from even most hurtful exp.


Couples in love spend signif amt time gazing into each other's eyes. Turns out reverse is true as well. Devised fake expt supposedly to test for ESP-telepathy, in which pairs had to look into each other's eyes extended time. They reported genuine feelings of affection/attraction for new-found soulmate.

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So, not only do our thoughts and feelings affect the way we act, but the way we act affects our thoughts and feelings.

Slightest hint of criticism has a v damaging effect on relationships "A woman's flattery may inflate a man's head a little, but her criticism goes straight to his heart, and contracts it, so that it can never again hold quite so much love for her."

John Gottman's research showed the effect of negative comments - 2 different patterns of responding to negative and positive comments. The response to positive flattery was unpredictable - ranged from no response to lukewarm, but negative criticism always got a hostile response.

Relationships survive on mutual support, and even the briefest and mildest criticisms sting.

Lie Detection

Forget abt the myths of shifty eyes, sweaty palms or twitchy legs etc, and look for the signs associated with thinking hard. Do they suddenly become more static, cut down on gestures? Be on guard for a sudden decrease in detail, an increase in pauses, avoidance of 'me' 'mine' 'I' and increase in 'him' 'them'. If they suddenly become evasive, press for a straight answer.

To help spot these shifts, try establishing an 'honest baseline'. Before asking Q's that are likely to elicit deceptive answers, start with those that are likely to get honest answers. During these initial answers, get a feel for how they behave when they are telling the truth by watching their body language and listening to the words they use. The, when get to the trickier Q's, watch out for the behavioural shifts.

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People are less keen to lie in emails, prob bc they realize that they are permanently recorded.


The Mozart myth. 1993 study by Frances Rauscher where tested college students after some had listened to Mozart tape vs some who had listened to a relaxation tape. Authors noted that effects only temporary - 10 to 15 mins.

Newspapers picked up story, and some writers began to exaggerate effects, and then to assert that it worked on babies, despite fact that no-one had tested that. It became an urban legend. But when meta studies analysed (look at data from other labs trying to replicate original findings) there was no effect attributable to classical music at all.

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