People happiest/saddest from relationships

Sept. 1, 2010 at 1:27 AM
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BUFFALO, N.Y., Sept. 1 (UPI) -- Individual achievements like schooling or career may take most of one's effort but our best and worst experiences involve others, U.S. researchers say.

Study co-author Shira Gabriel of the University at Buffalo, principal author Lisa Jaremka, a doctoral student in psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Mauricio Cavallo, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, say the study findings run contrary to implications of previous research.

"Most of us spend much of our time and effort focused on individual achievements such as work, hobbies and schooling," Gabriel says in a statement. "However this research suggests that the events that end up being most important in our lives, the events that bring us the most happiness and also carry the potential for the most pain, are social events -- moments of connecting to others and feeling their connections."

The research involved 376 study subjects, who participated in four studies. One study involved college students asked to describe the most positive and negative emotional experiences of their lives. Overwhelmingly, the study subjects described social events. The same study using middle-age participants had similar results.

The third study provided evidence that the strong emotional impact of interdependent -- or social -- events reported in the first two studies was not due to social events being more salient than independent events.

The fourth study finds social events gain their emotional punch from the need to belong.

The findings are published in Self and Identity.

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