Find Mediators Near You:

Too Happy???

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

Science never ceases to amaze me. Now there is a study that finds that being too happy is not a good thing. According to an article in the April 2, 2012 edition of The Washington Post entitled “Too much happiness can make you unhappy, studies show”, one can be less happy by being so happy. Sounds oxymoronic to me!

Evidently, according to June Gruber, a professor of psychology at Yale University, we should experience positive moods (like everything else in life) in moderation. According to psychologist Edward Diener, too much happiness can hamper your career; he found from a study of 16,000 people around the world that those who had high job satisfaction early on in their lives, reported that later in their careers they earned a lower income than their less satisfied comrades. Another study of American college freshmen found that years later, these very happy freshmen ended up earning $3,500 less a year than their not so happy peers.

Another study found that students participating as jurors in a mock trial reached different verdicts depending on how happy or unhappy they were; the “happy “jurors , being in a positive mood, were more likely to find the “defendant” guilty while those who were in a neutral mood were equally divided or, in legal parlance, constituted a “hung” jury.

Further, another study found that those jurors who were in a happy mood were less likely to detect that the defendant was lying about committing the crime. In a study involving 117 students at the University of New South Wales in Australia, Professor Joe Forgas showed specially selected video clips to these students to induce them to become either happy (i.e., a positive mood) or not so happy (i.e., a negative mood).The students then watched an interrogation of different “defendants” who allegedly stole a movie theater ticket. Some of these “defendants” had actually stolen the movie ticket but lied about it by denying the theft while others had not stolen the ticket and so were telling the truth when they denied the theft. Professor Forgas found that the “happy” students could detect the guilt only on a 50-50 basis; i.e., simply by mere chance. The not so happy students were able to detect the “guilty” defendant more than 50% of the time.

The article goes on to note that evidently “[f]eeling good makes people more selfish…and worse at defending their opinions…[and] less creative…” (Id.) The more happy someone strives to be, the more likely she will end up feeling less happy and disappointed.

So, what does this have to do with mediation and settling disputes? A lot. If the other party is TOO happy, chances are the matter may not settle. So, along with all the other tools in my toolbox, I must now have one that measures the “happiness” quotient of the parties. Isn’t life interesting!

… Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

Featured Members

View all

Read these next


Free Mediation, Revisited

The prospect of elimination of all ADR administration by the the Los Angeles County Superior Court, discussed in a previous post, seems about to touch off another debate about pro...

By Joe Markowitz

Dan Rainey on the Universal Disclosure Protocol for Mediation

Sponsored by The International Council for Online Dispute Resolution (ICODR) Dan Rainey speaking about the launch of the Universal Disclosure Protocol for Mediation (UDPM) -- more information available at https://universaldisclosureprotocolme......

By Daniel Rainey

In mediation marketing, the little touches count

Every Friday I write thank you cards to clients I served that week. They're hand written and I choose the card from a stockpile I keep in my office, something...

By Tammy Lenski