Too Much Happiness May Make You Less Successful and Less Able to Judge Guilt, Studies Suggest

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There are downsides to being really happy.

Psychologists say high levels of positive feelings are associated with risk taking behaviors, such as alcohol and drug consumption, and can hurt career success, the Washington Post reports. Researchers point to studies showing people reporting high levels of happiness early in their lives or in college earned less money later in life than those who were less cheerful.

Psychologist Edward Diener explains why too much happiness may not benefit your career. People who don’t experience much sadness or anxiety aren’t as likely to find a better job or get more education.

Studies also show that sad people pay more attention to details and think in a more systematic manner, the story says. Happy people, on the other hand, may be more prone to rely on stereotypes. They are also easier to deceive, which may mean that guilty defendants want them on juries, the story says.

In a study by University of New South Wales psychology professor Joe Forgas, 117 students viewed video clips designed to put them in good or bad moods, according to the story. Later they were asked to view a film of people being asked about the theft of a movie ticket. The happy students were unable to detect guilt above chance level. The unhappy students did better.

In another study from 1994, students induced to feel happy were more likely to find a student guilty in a “students’ court” if he was named “Juan Garcia” than if he was named “John Garner.” A control group was more evenly divided.

Prior coverage:

Pessimistic Law Students More Successful, Study Finds

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