Psy 300 Article Review Worksheet Name: _________________________________________
Article: Song, H. and Ybarra, O. (2008). But Are You Really Happy?: The Negativity Effect in the
Inference of Happiness and Unhappiness. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 30, 56-65
1. The Research Study:
It is important to note that this study was done in three parts or three sub-studies. The study investigated people’s inferences from other’s expression of happiness and unhappiness. The first study investigated people’s theories of other’s happiness. The second study investigated how people judged other’s description of their happiness. The third study investigated how people used situational information in assessing people’s happiness.
A. Independent Variables:
Study 1 was a survey to assess people’s theories of the range of expression that happy and unhappy people enact. Therefore there were no independent or independent variables, since the study was not designed to manipulate any factor but simple to gather information on the subject’s views.
Study 2. The independent variable was the tone of the essay written by students. Some wrote essays expressing happiness with college life and others wrote essays expressing unhappiness with college life.
Study 3. The independent variable was the same- the expressions of happiness or unhappiness, but in this case situational information was included with the essays.
B. Dependent Variables:
Study 2. The dependent variable was the perception of the participants of people’s expression of
their happiness or unhappiness and how revealing and true these expressions are.
Study 3. The dependent variable was similar to Study 2 but in this case situational information was
included that could qualify the participants’ inferences.
C. Subjects/Participants used in study:
Study 1. 24 students at the University of Michigan-7 male, 17 female;18 white, 2 black, 1 Asian, 1 other, 2 unknown.
Study 2. 64 students; 11 were approached and invited, 53 were offered credit for taking part- 21men, 43 women; 50 white, 5 black, 6 Asians, 2 Latino, 1 other.
Study 3. 104 University of Michigan students- 55 recruited from an introductory social psychology course and 49 from an introductory psychology course; 24 male and 72 females and 8 not indicated;75 white, 5 black, 10 Asians, 4 Latinos, 11 not indicated. Students were asked by their instructors if they wanted to participate.
D. Research Method:
The study was a cross-sectional investigation into the inferences of the sample population. The survey method was used to collect data. Questionnaires were given to all participants in each of the three studies.
Study 1 tested whether there was a positivity norm in the expression and communication of
Study 2- as the authors stated, “We set out to test the hypothesis that people perceive others’
expression of unhappiness as more revealing of people’s true attitudes and feelings compared to
others’ expression of happiness”. (pg. 58).
Study 3. According to the authors, “We hypothesized that people’s inferences about a person’s
unhappiness should be less influenced by situational information than people’s inferences about a
person’s happiness, as inferences from negative behaviors tend to be less influenced by
situational information compared to positive behaviors in other trait domains related to social
desirability”. (pg. 60).
Study 1 found that people perceive that an unhappy person has a wider range of emotional expressions than a happy person.
Study 2. Found that a person’s description of his unhappy life is more revealing of his true feelings and attitude than the description of a person’s happy life.
Study 3. Found that situational information affected a person’s inference of another’s happy life more than it affected the inferences of another’s unhappy life.
In general the study supports a negativity effect on people’s inferences of other’s happiness or unhappiness and also applies to the expression and communication of happiness or unhappiness.
G. Personal Critique:
i. One strength of the study is in the sample- large and varied in gender and ethnicity. Using a different sample for each study could be an advantage as each sample did not know what the previous study was about and so this would not influence the responses.
ii. One weakness of the study is the brevity of the questionnaires used. There could be more information gathered to investigate inferences and attitudes at a deeper level. Additionally, since the study was done with college students on one campus and mainly in the psychology department, the results may not be indicative of a more general and wider population.
iii. In what ways are the results of the study relevant to the information in your textbook? In what ways
the results discussed in the research article reaffirm or complement material discussed in class?
iv. A major expansion of the study would be to repeat with different populations; including age, class background and life experience. It would be useful to apply the hypothesis to different cultures and to examine how different life experiences and cultures affect the attitude to other’s happiness and unhappiness and how it affects the way people assess and make inferences about others.
H. Copy and paste the abstract from your research article here.
This research examined whether people make correspondent inferences more readily for others’ expression of unhappiness than happiness. Study 1 measured people’s lay theory of the range of emotional expressions that happy and unhappy people enact. We found that people perceive that a person who is unhappy has a wider range of emotional expression than a person who is happy. Participants in Study 2 inferred that another’s description of his or her own unhappy life was more revealing of that person’s true attitudes and feelings than another’s description of his or her own happy life. Following up
on these findings, Study 3 showed that people’s inferences regarding another’s level of happiness were more affected by situational information when the person described a happy life compared to an unhappy life. Together, these three studies point to a negativity effect in person inference that also applies to the expression and communication of happiness and unhappiness.