In recent years many scholars have studied the positive effect economic wellbeing has on happiness. Now, Daniel Sgroi and colleagues at the University of Warwick in England have flipped that premise around, homing on on whether happiness can affect productivity.
So much for throwing yourself into work when you feel blue. The scholars learned that happier people performed better at tests than unhappier people.
Sgroi and his team ran the experiment twice, both times working with about 180 subjects. The first time, he induced happiness in a group of people by showing them 10 minutes of comedy clips. Another group saw no clips. Then, both groups took a short math test. They were told they would be paid based on how many questions they answered correctly. The group that had watched the clips answered 10% more questions correctly than the group that hadn't.
The second time, the scholars worked with a group of people who were assumed to be a bit less happy already: bereaved people, unhealthy people, and the like. He also asked participants to rate their happiness on a scale of 1 to 7. Again, happier people did better on the math test, with people who had experienced a significant life shock-- such as death of a loved one or an illness-- in the last year doing significantly worse than people who had experienced a shock two years ago or more.