Пособие прошло апробацию в группах магистратур факультета мэо. Contents - страница 21


You are going to read a newspaper article about happiness. Seven paragraphs have been removed from the extract. Choose from the paragraphs A-H the one which fits each gap (1-7). There is one extra paragraph which you do not need to use.

Happy as your genes allow

The true key to happiness, says researcher David Lykken, lies in our genes. To many of us, this notion might seem absurd. Humans seem to be on an emotional roller coaster, the ups and downs of which often appear to be determined by fate. We feel good when we win an award or make a new friend; bad when we have to face one of life's inevitable setbacks.


Likken's interest in happiness was sparked by his earlier research into its possible determinants. Scientists have tried for years to identify a link between contentment and marital status, socioeconomic position, professional success and other factors. Yet they invariably come up empty handed. ‘I was intrigued by the way that things like beauty, wealth and status never seemed to make much difference,’ says Lykken, a semi-retired professor at the university of Minnesota.


As part of the comprehensive research on the siblings, Lykken had asked his subjects a range of questions about how happy they felt. He decided to revisit those studies to see if he could establish a genetic connection. The results, says Lykken, were surprising. He found a very high correlation between happiness and genes as revealed by the similarities in the twins' responses to questions, irrespective of whether they had been raised together or apart.


Nine years on, therefore, he decided to ask the same subjects the same questions. The evidence Lykken found suggested that their contentment was 90 per cent genetic. Both a twin's previous responses and those made almost a decade later enabled the answers of the other twin to be predicted with a high level of accuracy. Lykken's first reaction was to label the pursuit of happiness as a futile exercise.


In his own life, Lykken concentrates on completing small tasks that give him a great deal of satisfaction. ‘I've just spent the morning writing, which is something I like and that I'm pretty good at,’ he says. ‘This afternoon, I'll bake some loaves of bread, because I need that for my morning toast. I just discovered that the American Psychological Association wants to give me an award, and that makes me feel good, but maybe not as good as that daily baking.’


The demeanour of those we live with is another vital factor. Teenagers with happy parents tend to be happy themselves. It's not until they leave home that they find their own set point. Likewise, a husband or wife's inner contentment has a large bearing on that of their spouse. Marrying an upbeat person is probably the best mood enhancer around.


In the science fiction work ^ Brave New World, for example, people who took ‘happy pills' were incapable of seeing life as it truly was. Fans of Woody Allen, the perpetually depressed actor and film maker, will remember the scene in the film Annie Hall in which he asks a strolling couple why they are so happy. 'Because we are so shallow and mindless,’ they reply.


Lykken is sceptical. 'Even if you can speak their language, they might not have the same psychological vocabulary for expressing how they feel at any given moment,’ he says. Lykken refuses to believe that there is any correlation between the state of a society's technical or intellectual development and personal happiness. In fact, he argues that good humour is probably favoured by evolution. The gloomiest probably don't do very well in the romance stakes,’ he theorises. 'So, as a human race, we're probably getting slightly happier over time.

A ‘Then I began to ask myself whether those findings may have been influenced by how people were feeling on a certain day — if they had just cut themselves, for example, or had trouble finding a parking space,’ he says.

В Lykken also advocates control of anger as another regular way of boosting happiness quotients. 'People would rather feel anger than feel scared,’ he says. 'When we are angry we feel strong, but in the long run, I believe it's more harmful to happiness than anything else.’

С The surest way to do this, Lykken believes, is to lose sight of our purpose in life. He described the case of a Californian firefighter — the patient of a friend — who recently retired from the service and quickly became depressed. His mood picked up quickly when he discovered that many widows in the neighbourhood needed to have things fixed round the house.

D Some philosophers question whether humans should actually be seeking such happiness inducing arrangements in the first place. Joy is sometimes associated with ignorance, they argue, causing happy people to 'see the world through rose-tinted glasses'.

E According to Lykken, however, each person possesses a 'happiness set point' — the level of contentment to which we return after the impact of such specific events is absorbed. While humans teeter wildly around that point during their lives, experiencing moments of extreme elation or depression, in the long run they gravitate back to their pre-set happiness level.

F ‘I said at the time that trying to be happier might be the same as trying to be taller,’ he recalls, but he no longer views his research in that light. While the individual's sense of well-being might be 90 per cent predetermined, people still have substantial leeway to control their emotions. Lykken believes humans can — and should — aim to achieve happiness slightly above their pre-set level.

G In the late 1990s, the psychologist realised that he might be able to shed some further light on the subject. ‘That was a happy moment,’ he jokes. Over a long period of time, Lykken had been following the progress of 300 pairs of identical twins. Identical twins help scientists differentiate between the effects of the environment and heredity. Because twins' genetic make-up is the same, small differences between them argue in favour of heredity. Large divergencies point to the environment as the greater determining factor.

H Some people would rule out even this possibility, insisting that happiness is inconsistent with modern times. Contemporary lives are so stressful, they say, that joy becomes elusive. Primitive tribes are better off. We should all feel nostalgic for 'simpler' times when we felt content with so much less.

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