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Bernard M - English Conversation / TOEFL / IELTS 一對一英文會話

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Some cultures are simply better at producing happy citizens than others.

FROM The Christian Science Monitor By Eric Weiner from the January 7, 2008 edition:

There is, it turns out, little difference between You and Me. Both outlooks reflect a firmly held and particularly American belief that happiness lies deep inside the inner you, or me, or whatever.

The self-help industry has it wrong. Social scientists studying happiness (or subjective well-being, to use the academic term) have found that external factors – quality of government, social interactions and, to an extent, money – determine our happiness more than anything else. In other words, happiness does not reside inside of you.
The writer goes on to say that "Perhaps happy countries tend to embrace democracy and not the other way around." So what makes happy countries? The findings of social scientists alluded to above must be reconciled with two laws of behavioral genetics. I quote from Steven Pinker's book The Blank Slate:

The First Law: All human behavioural traits are heritable
The Second Law: The effect of being raised in the same family is smaller than the
effect of the genes.
[I've omitted the Third Law]

The effects of shared environments are small (less than 10 percent of the variance), often not statistically significant, often not replicated in other studies, and often a big fat zero.

[By shared environment Pinker means the family environment.]

Social Interactions and the ability to make money can hardly be described as purely external factors. Your genes have something to say about how sociable you are and how much money you are going to make. I guess this is just another variation of the nature vs. nurture debate.

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