Happier days

Kevin Lewis

February 03, 2019

Nostalgia and well-being in daily life: An ecological validity perspective
David Newman et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming


Nostalgia is a mixed emotion. Recent empirical research, however, has highlighted positive effects of nostalgia, suggesting it is a predominantly positive emotion. When measured as an individual difference, nostalgia-prone individuals report greater meaning in life and approach temperament. When manipulated in an experimental paradigm, nostalgia increases meaning in life, self-esteem, optimism, and positive affect. These positive effects may result from the specific experimental procedures used and little is known about daily experiences that covary with nostalgia. To address this gap, we aimed to measure nostalgia in ecologically valid contexts. We created and validated the Personal Inventory of Nostalgic Experiences (PINE) scale (Studies 1a–1d) to assess both trait and state-based nostalgic experiences. When measured as an individual difference, the nomological net was generally negative (Study 2). When measured in daily life (Studies 3 and 4), nostalgia as a state variable was negatively related to well-being. Lagged analyses showed that state nostalgia had mixed effects on well-being at a later moment that day and negative effects on well-being on the following day. To reconcile the discrepancies between these studies and the positive effects of nostalgia from previous research, we showed that experimentally induced nostalgic recollections were rated more positively and less negatively than daily experiences of nostalgia (Study 5). These studies show that nostalgia is a mixed emotion; although it may be predominantly positive when nostalgic memories are generated on request, it seems predominantly negative when nostalgia is experienced in the course of everyday life.

The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use
Amy Orben & Andrew Przybylski
Nature Human Behaviour, forthcoming


The widespread use of digital technologies by young people has spurred speculation that their regular use negatively impacts psychological well-being. Current empirical evidence supporting this idea is largely based on secondary analyses of large-scale social datasets. Though these datasets provide a valuable resource for highly powered investigations, their many variables and observations are often explored with an analytical flexibility that marks small effects as statistically significant, thereby leading to potential false positives and conflicting results. Here we address these methodological challenges by applying specification curve analysis (SCA) across three large-scale social datasets (total n = 355,358) to rigorously examine correlational evidence for the effects of digital technology on adolescents. The association we find between digital technology use and adolescent well-being is negative but small, explaining at most 0.4% of the variation in well-being. Taking the broader context of the data into account suggests that these effects are too small to warrant policy change.

An examination of the relationship between hoarding symptoms and hostility
Brittany Mathes et al.
Journal of Psychiatric Research, forthcoming


Hoarding disorder (HD) is a persistent and severe psychiatric condition in which individuals are unable to discard possessions, which results in considerable clutter. Individuals who hoard often endorse interpersonal difficulties and social isolation. However, little research has examined mechanisms that may help to explain this relationship. One possible mechanism is hostility, which is characterized by increased sensitivity to real or perceived social threats. The current study examined the relationship between hoarding symptoms and hostility across two undergraduate samples. In study 1, unselected undergraduates (N = 195) were administered measures of hoarding symptoms, hostile interpretations, and depression and anxiety symptoms. Participants in study 2 (N = 117) were selected for reporting elevated hoarding symptoms. Study 2 participants were administered the same measures as in study 1, and were additionally randomized to an inclusion or exclusion condition in a social exclusion manipulation. Total hoarding symptoms and hostile interpretations were positively associated across both samples, even when controlling for depression and anxiety. Further, greater hoarding symptoms were associated with increased feelings of hostility in response to social exclusion in study 2. Results suggest that increased sensitivity to social threat may confer risk for hoarding. These findings add to a growing body of research implicating interpersonal factors in the development and maintenance of hoarding disorder.

The Effects of Being Time Poor and Time Rich on Life Satisfaction
Marissa Sharif, Cassie Mogilner & Hal Hershfield
University of Pennsylvania Working Paper, November 2018


Many people living in modern society feel like they don’t have enough time and are constantly searching for more. But, is having limited discretionary time actually detrimental? And, can there be downsides of having too much free time? In two largescale datasets spanning 35,375 Americans, we test the relationship between the amount of discretionary time individuals have and their life satisfaction. We find and internally replicate a negative quadratic relationship between discretionary time and life satisfaction. These results show that while having too little time is indeed linked to lower levels of life satisfaction, having more time does not continually translate to greater life satisfaction, and can even reduce it.

Social anxiety disorder and memory for positive feedback
Brianne Glazier & Lynn Alden
Journal of Abnormal Psychology, forthcoming


Clinical theorists postulate that individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) display memory biases such that recall of social events becomes more negative with time; however, alternative memory models have also been proposed. Research has focused predominantly on selective recall of negative information with inconsistent findings. The goal of the current study was to examine potential biases in recall of positive social feedback. Individuals with SAD (n = 59) and nonanxious community controls (n = 63) engaged in an unexpected public speaking task and received standardized positive or neutral feedback on their speech. Participants were asked to recall the feedback after 5 minutes and after 1 week. Results indicated that at delayed recall, individuals with SAD recalled positive feedback as less positive than it had been. The findings support cognitive models of SAD and extend the model to positive social information. Research is needed to understand the mechanisms that underlie fading positivity.

Assessment of Bidirectional Relationships Between Physical Activity and Depression Among Adults: A 2-Sample Mendelian Randomization Study
Karmel Choi et al.
JAMA Psychiatry, forthcoming

Design, Setting, and Participants: This 2-sample mendelian randomization (MR) used independent top genetic variants associated with 2 physical activity phenotypes — self-reported (n = 377 234) and objective accelerometer-based (n = 91 084) — and with major depressive disorder (MDD) (n = 143 265) as genetic instruments from the largest available, nonoverlapping genome-wide association studies (GWAS). GWAS were previously conducted in diverse observational cohorts, including the UK Biobank (for physical activity) and participating studies in the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium (for MDD) among adults of European ancestry. Mendelian randomization estimates from each genetic instrument were combined using inverse variance weighted meta-analysis, with alternate methods (eg, weighted median, MR Egger, MR–Pleiotropy Residual Sum and Outlier [PRESSO]) and multiple sensitivity analyses to assess horizontal pleiotropy and remove outliers. Data were analyzed from May 10 through July 31, 2018.

Results: GWAS summary data were available for a combined sample size of 611 583 adult participants. Mendelian randomization evidence suggested a protective relationship between accelerometer-based activity and MDD (odds ratio [OR], 0.74 for MDD per 1-SD increase in mean acceleration; 95% CI, 0.59-0.92; P = .006). In contrast, there was no statistically significant relationship between MDD and accelerometer-based activity (β = −0.08 in mean acceleration per MDD vs control status; 95% CI, −0.47 to 0.32; P = .70). Furthermore, there was no significant relationship between self-reported activity and MDD (OR, 1.28 for MDD per 1-SD increase in metabolic-equivalent minutes of reported moderate-to-vigorous activity; 95% CI, 0.57-3.37; P = .48), or between MDD and self-reported activity (β = 0.02 per MDD in standardized metabolic-equivalent minutes of reported moderate-to-vigorous activity per MDD vs control status; 95% CI, −0.008 to 0.05; P = .15).

Conclusions and Relevance: Using genetic instruments identified from large-scale GWAS, robust evidence supports a protective relationship between objectively assessed — but not self-reported — physical activity and the risk for MDD. Findings point to the importance of objective measurement of physical activity in epidemiologic studies of mental health and support the hypothesis that enhancing physical activity may be an effective prevention strategy for depression.

The minute-scale dynamics of online emotions reveal the effects of affect labeling
Rui Fan et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, January 2019, Pages 92–100


Putting one’s feelings into words (also called affect labeling) can attenuate positive and negative emotions. Here, we track the evolution of specific emotions for 74,487 Twitter users by analysing the emotional content of their tweets before and after they explicitly report experiencing a positive or negative emotion. Our results describe the evolution of emotions and their expression at the temporal resolution of one minute. The expression of positive emotions is preceded by a short, steep increase in positive valence and followed by short decay to normal levels. Negative emotions, however, build up more slowly and are followed by a sharp reversal to previous levels, consistent with previous studies demonstrating the attenuating effects of affect labeling. We estimate that positive and negative emotions last approximately 1.25 and 1.5 h, respectively, from onset to evanescence. A separate analysis for male and female individuals suggests the potential for gender-specific differences in emotional dynamics.

A Compassionate Self Is a True Self? Self-Compassion Promotes Subjective Authenticity
Jia Wei Zhang et al.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, forthcoming


Theory and research converge to suggest that authenticity predicts positive psychological adjustment. Given these benefits of authenticity, there is a surprising dearth of research on the factors that foster authenticity. Five studies help fill this gap by testing whether self-compassion promotes subjective authenticity. Study 1 found a positive association between trait self-compassion and authenticity. Study 2 demonstrated that on days when people felt more self-compassionate, they also felt more authentic. Study 3 discovered that people experimentally induced to be self-compassionate reported greater state authenticity relative to control participants. Studies 4 and 5 recruited samples from multiple cultures and used a cross-sectional and a longitudinal design, respectively, and found that self-compassion predicts greater authenticity through reduced fear of negative evaluation (Study 4) and heightened optimism (Study 5). Across studies, self-compassion’s effects on authenticity could not be accounted for by self-esteem. Overall, the results suggest that self-compassion can help cultivate subjective authenticity.

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