Can love and friendship replace money?

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  • #51
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What about using that technique for something like this? Check for a correlation between the amount of money one makes and the happiness scale 1-100, then control for third variables such as friendship? For example, I've heard of friendship quotients (like an intelligent quotient but rather how deep vs. shallow friendships are). Perhaps other measures also?
You could certainly do such a survey, or possibly even test the variable relationships with existing data. Personally, I always think critically about what factors could mediate the way someone answers survey questions in a certain way or other. Social desirability is the major bias I've read about lately in which people tend to answer questions in ways that they think would make them socially desirable. This could be part of a deeper and more general pattern where people literally convince themselves that things that are supposed to make them happy in fact do, because others would judge them if they didn't say so. Imagine someone who has a big house, nice car, great job, high salary, fantastic spouse and family, etc. complaining that s/he is unhappy despite or even as a result of so much wealth and income. Imagine that person writing on a questionnaire or telling a survey interviewer, "well, none of it really makes me happy because my spouse doesn't really love me, s/he just goes through the motions because it works so well economically and socially."

People don't even admit that kind of thing to themselves, usually, let alone a survey. Personally, I think in depth case-studies always provide more valuable information than survey data, but what is the harm in doing a survey if you put ethics first, etc.? I'm guessing with in-depth interviewing you would get people saying how love and friendship did provide comfort to them during financial loss, and others who say their friends and lover abandoned them when they started living on PB&J and stopped wearing nice clothes or going out. You might even find that some people maintained love and friendships but it wasn't sufficient for them because they lost self-esteem (self-love). There are so many empirical possibilities.
 
  • #52
Social desirability is the major bias I've read about lately in which people tend to answer questions in ways that they think would make them socially desirable.... Personally, I think in depth case-studies always provide more valuable information than survey data, but what is the harm in doing a survey if you put ethics first, etc.? I'm guessing with in-depth interviewing you would get people saying how love and friendship did provide comfort to them during financial loss, and others who say their friends and lover abandoned them when they started living on PB&J and stopped wearing nice clothes or going out.
One of my concerns is you hear one person say they know someone who's poor and very unhappy. Then in conflict to that you'll meet a different person who says they know someone who's poor and very happy. You come across people who say the same for those who are rich, and middle income. I'm wondering if looking at correlation with a large group of people can give you a much bigger picture of what's going on? What about making a scatterplot, with one factor being income, then another being a quantitative measure of happiness level, then another measure of friendship?

Also, have you noticed that one person will look at facts and have an interpretation, then another will look at the same exact facts and have a completely opposite interpretation? I think in person case studies are valuable in getting insight, however I would think supplementing it with along with other research methods would allow you to test one's own assumptions against the evidence. To illustrate what I mean, it used to be believing that germs causing diseases was ludicrous. What this has to do with this, in one British town they said cholera was caused by pollution or "bad air", just like many had blamed for causing the Black Death for many years. Many said that they could "verify with their own eyes" that it was caused by some type of pollution in the air. Then a guy named John Snow made a map of where the cholera cases were forming, and found that it centered around a water pump. After the water pump was fixed, the problem went away. Anyway, as far as being one of the various individuals helping to advance that germs cause disease, this guy was a contributor. So I would think case studies can be quite useful in Science, but I would think they shouldn't stop at that? Also, Freud relied on case studies only, and many of his ideas today are accused of being pseudo-psychology by research psychologists.

Although surveys can have some social desirability bias in particular situations, if you have a case study interview face to face wouldn't there also be the possibility where they try to act socially desirable, especially because face to face is less anonymous?

What would your opinion be on relying on more than just case studies? In Science don't they say rather than proving you start out with an explanation and then try to disprove, so wouldn't testing from many different angles using different methods be useful?
 
  • #53
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a quantitative measure of happiness level
What would you suggest, as a quantitative (and preferably not culturally biased) measure of "happiness" (or whatever it is that you are using happiness as a proxy for, presuming you would favour worthwhile labours to heroin-addled stupor)?
 
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  • #54
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Although surveys can have some social desirability bias in particular situations, if you have a case study interview face to face wouldn't there also be the possibility where they try to act socially desirable, especially because face to face is less anonymous?
What do you mean "some" bias? As if you could control for this with a statistical procedure? Social desirability bias means that people who are convinced that they should be happy, or are afraid to say that they aren't happy, will report themselves as being happy even if they're not. In fact, they might insist even more forcefully that they're happy to try to convince themselves. In principle this is a rational self-therapy strategy because happiness is largely the product of the subjective belief that one's experiences are good. But that doesn't change the fact that there is often a lag between the desire to interpret one's experiences as good and the actual experience of them as good.

However, the reason why I don't think people with more wealth or income can be truly happy is that their happiness is based on material prosperity, which is inherently vulnerable. This is not my argument - it's actually what Jesus tells the woman at the well about spiritual water never drying up. Sorry to bring up religion, but I felt I had to cite since I'm not the first person who came up with the idea. The point is that the wealthier you are, the more you have to lose, which translates into a certain degree of fear and unhappiness. Of course this is offset to some degree by the pleasure of the wealth itself, although this is offset by thrills and pleasures wearing off the more you consume them.

Likewise, people who are poor do experience unhappiness caused by material deprivation and social maltreatment. But if they have come to terms with the pain of having lost certain material comforts, they can still enjoy the inherent happiness of having good health or moments of peace, etc. Of course, if they're constantly being plagued by heath problems and social maltreatment, these moments of peace may be few and far between. Also, social maltreatment can stimulate self-maltreatment, I believe, where people self-hate because they internalize social judgment.

So I think there are causes for happiness and unhappiness at any level of material prosperity. Only, I think people who feel justified in expressing unhappiness are more likely to do report or otherwise express it than people who feel that they have no reason to be unhappy. This is why I think surveys about wealth and happiness always correlate more wealth with more happiness, not because wealthier people are immune from unhappiness. They might even be more repressed generally, and less happy for that reason.

What would your opinion be on relying on more than just case studies? In Science don't they say rather than proving you start out with an explanation and then try to disprove, so wouldn't testing from many different angles using different methods be useful?
There's no way to prove or disprove this except through self-reflection and what you can reasonably generalize on that basis. If you want to falsify the question of whether wealthier people are more repressed, you have to operationalize repression in a way that works for all prosperity levels. Then you could use psychology to ascertain whether it is possible to be happy despite or thanks to repression, which some people argue is the case. You could certainly deduce various testable hypotheses about the relationships between specific experiences defined as poverty-experiences and happiness and then attempt to falsify those. For example, you could hypothesize that sleeping outside makes people unhappy, unhealthy or both. Then you would just look for cases where someone sleeping outside was healthy and happy (if you can control for reporting bias, which is doubtful) and once you find a case you're sufficiently convinced is valid, voila', you have falsified the necessary relationship between sleeping outside and unhappiness. Now you have to look for other factors that mitigate sleeping outside as a cause of unhappiness and bad health or not. Systematic social science is tedious, isn't?

One thing is certain, though, I think. Having more control over your prosperity is more conducive to happiness than having less. That is the sad part about a socially-controlled economy - i.e. everyone's prosperity is dependent on someone else's contribution/spending/productivity. So everyone is trying to control each other to increase their own prosperity, which leads to other people feeling like they're losing control to others, which makes them feel less in-control and thus less happy.
 
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  • #55
What would you suggest, as a quantitative (and preferably not culturally biased) measure of "happiness" (or whatever it is that you are using happiness as a proxy for, presuming you would favour worthwhile labours to heroin-addled stupor)?
I was thinking of something like the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire. I know there's also work on physiological correlates with happiness, such as neurobiological systems of dopaminergic and opiate, although I'm not sure how developed that would be or even practical (if you were to make measurements out of it). If a survey is done, some questions like, "On a scale of 1-100, how happy am I with life?", etc, etc. Then something like principal components analysis could be conducted to create a composite. Then correlations with income level could be looked at, along with controlling for demographic third variables to see how much remains; that's what I meant by quantitative

The main concern I have about being quantitative is that when using the Scientific Method you have the step of testing ideas, where you say, "If this theory is true we predict this observation will happen." Although talking to people in person about their lives can give valuable insight when forming theories, it may not be as adept if you want to make exact testable predictions before-the-fact, if that makes sense where I'm coming from? However, saying "We predict a correlation in this direction. We predict there will still be correlation remaining after controlling for this third variable" before collecting the data, may work as making it falsifiable/having predictive power. Different people look at the same facts/observations and will have different interpretations, and so that's why I would think being able to have predictive power before the fact when testing a theory is an important part of the Scientific Method.
 
  • #56
What do you mean "some" bias? As if you could control for this with a statistical procedure? Social desirability bias means that....
This is where I'm coming from: Let's say you go in for a job interview where it's in person face-to-face, you'll try to answer the interviewer's questions in a way that will make you look good. Now let's say you're at a job that has an anonymous survey employees can anonymously put in a box, you'll probably be more honest since the drive for social desirability bias is less of a pressure on you? So surveys may in some situations have some of that bias; however, are case study interviews better off as far as avoiding answering in a socially desirable way when you're face-to-face and not at all anonymous? Case studies can offer quite valuable insight, but is it the testing the hypothesis phase of your research? When you mention "case studies", I'm not sure if you meant more qualitative or quantitative style case studies, or both?

Along these lines, when studying anything using the scientific method format, don't you think it's best to test it using many different methodologies and angles rather than just one? If you try some intensive interview case studies on just a few selected individuals, couldn't it be possible another researcher would get different results because of a different sample of a few individuals, and so a more extensive survey may be a tool of gaining a bigger picture overall of how people are? Wouldn't other researchers also interpret the same exact "sit down with the person" differently, and thus a need to test from other angles in addition to that?

Also, the only way to test cause-effect is through experimental-control studies, which I think would be difficult with a topic like this. Although correlation doesn't prove causation, it is possible to control for third variables to see how much remains. Don't they do that with those smoking tobacco and risk of early death correlational studies? That is another reason why I'm showing interest with something which allows for the possibility of evualating partial correlations and graphing techniques.
 
  • #57
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This is where I'm coming from: Let's say you go in for a job interview where it's in person face-to-face, you'll try to answer the interviewer's questions in a way that will make you look good. Now let's say you're at a job that has an anonymous survey employees can anonymously put in a box, you'll probably be more honest since the drive for social desirability bias is less of a pressure on you? So surveys may in some situations have some of that bias; however, are case study interviews better off as far as avoiding answering in a socially desirable way when you're face-to-face and not at all anonymous? Case studies can offer quite valuable insight, but is it the testing the hypothesis phase of your research? When you mention "case studies", I'm not sure if you meant more qualitative or quantitative style case studies, or both?
I think you have a data analyst's dream of finding a transparent survey instrument. Like I said before, I think most social-desirability bias occurs because people want to believe that they feel the way they think they should feel. While it may be that they consciously report things a certain way because of the actual reception context (i.e. job interview, anonymous survey, etc.), there are things people don't admit to themselves. If they have convinced themselves that their life is good because they are prosperous and that they are lucky, they will truly believe that they are happy even though they are not. If someone buys an expensive car or house because they believe it will make them happy, and then they find out after owning it a while that it doesn't, they probably don't want to admit to themselves that they are wasting loads of money on things that don't make them happy, so they will focus on the status-response they get from others regarding their expensive stuff. It would be a break-through in their lives if they were to come to the realization that they're not truly happy and radically restructure their life. That is the stuff of mid-life crises and the aftermath of near-death experiences.
 
  • #58
I think you have a data analyst's dream of finding a transparent survey instrument. Like I said before, I think most social-desirability bias occurs because people want to believe that they feel the way they think they should feel. While it may be that they consciously report things a certain way because of the actual reception context (i.e. job interview, anonymous survey, etc.), there are things people don't admit to themselves. If they have convinced themselves that their life is good because they are prosperous and that they are lucky, they will truly believe that they are happy even though they are not. If someone buys an expensive car or house because they believe it will make them happy, and then they find out after owning it a while that it doesn't, they probably don't want to admit to themselves that they are wasting loads of money on things that don't make them happy, so they will focus on the status-response they get from others regarding their expensive stuff. It would be a break-through in their lives if they were to come to the realization that they're not truly happy and radically restructure their life. That is the stuff of mid-life crises and the aftermath of near-death experiences.
Context for why I care: Galileo and many other scientists would try to come up with experiments to test ideas. Using something to test it is better than nothing at all. Although you can't prove using the Scientific Method, you can say that you have more or less confidence based on your tests. It can also help you understand things better.

From what I understand, there is no correlation between income and happiness, with the exception being at the "poor" level, then there's a relationship (also if you're employed or not). I think it would be interesting to see if there's any left over correlation within that range after controlling for number of friendships, etc, as a way to test to what extent "Can love and frienship replace money".

You keep on saying "social desirability"? What are your sources? I've read there's something that with surveys, but then those sources also say one-on-one interview case studies have social desirability bias, since you mention using those instead (if you're in person for an interview there's going to be social desirability bias). Like I said, I'd rather test something from many different angles, rather than just one.
 
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  • #59
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Context for why I care: Galileo and many other scientists would try to come up with experiments to test ideas. Using something to test it is better than nothing at all. Although you can't prove using the Scientific Method, you can say that you have more or less confidence based on your tests. It can also help you understand things better.
Your stumbling block for understanding social things better isn't a lack of empirical data or testing. It is the fact that you want to begin at the statistical level instead of at the level of self-reflection or case studies. How can you understand multitudes if you can't even understand a single individual, e.g. yourself through self-reflection? If you can't understand social-desirability bias by the very fact that you as an individual are prone to it, how can you begin to understand it in a research situation? Max Weber understood how this works, which is why he wrote about science as a vocation and value-freedom. He knew that people were prone to approaching social science through the filters of their own skewed perspectives. So if the only basis you have for understanding social-desirability bias is what you've read about it in books and articles, then you should really do the effort of self-reflecting and identifying with it in practice. At that point, you should be able to theorize more rigorously about why and how it would show up in various situations, whether they involve data-collection or otherwise.

From what I understand, there is no correlation between income and happiness, with the exception being at the "poor" level, then there's a relationship (also if you're employed or not). I think it would be interesting to see if there's any left over correlation within that range after controlling for number of friendships, etc, as a way to test to what extent "Can love and frienship replace money".
As long as you realize that statistical correlation doesn't explain how the two things are related in people's lived experiences. You want to treat a survey population as if it was an individual psyche. In reality, people are happy or sad due to specific reasons and processes. You have to trace the linkage in a given individual's experience between their experiences of prosperity or poverty and how they ended up feeling happy or sad at particular moments. Then the question is whether you can generalize about a person outside of their specific experiences of happiness or sadness. Yes, people are able to claim to be "generally happy" or "generally unhappy" in their life, but what does that reflect except an abstract assessment based on their own subjective and undisciplined analysis of multiple moments in their everyday life?

You keep on saying "social desirability"? What are your sources? I've read there's something that with surveys, but then those sources also say one-on-one interview case studies have social desirability bias, since you mention using those instead (if you're in person for an interview there's going to be social desirability bias). Like I said, I'd rather test something from many different angles, rather than just one.
Sources? I explained concretely how social desirability is something about a person themselves regardless of whether they are participating in formal data collection or not. Are you just blocking out what I say because it's not what you want to hear? You can look at it from any angle you want. If you want to believe that people are totally transparently self-aware and that they never deny anything to themselves or anyone else, including survey interviewers or anonymous surveys, then you can believe that. If you want to believe that there are some kinds of survey instruments that generate more transparent data than others, you just distinguish two kinds of instruments and make up a reason why one would be more likely to evoke honesty than another. Social researchers are generally biased toward believing that there are truly transparent instruments anyway, so it is likely that many people will support your idea and laude your data as being rigorously concerned with controlling for social-desirability bias.
 
  • #60
If you can't understand social-desirability bias by the very fact that you as an individual are prone to it, how can you begin to understand it in a research situation?
I don't think I understand your logic here. Why not instead do the lesser of the two evils? You keep on saying social desirability bias is something to watch out for, and that you think case studies where you interview them face-to-face is a good alternative? However, every source says "anonymous self-admistration" and "having a computer ask the questions" is a way to dramatically reduce social desirability bias. Doing case study interviews in person is going to flare up this social desirability bias where they answer in a way to make themselves look good. You keep on saying "social desirability bias" over and over again.

Something worthwhile to consider:
When carrying out empirical surveys and psycho-social research, the scientific method can make use of some devices in order to reduce or measure the distortion caused by social desirability in the answers obtained through a questionnaire (both filled in by the subject or by an interviewer) and in the surveys or opinion polls carried out by interviewing people face-to-face or through the telephone [3]. Among those forms of administration, which can help to reduce social desirability, there is anonymous self-administration and the administration neutralized through a computer; moreover, the "distortive tendency" typical of the subjects can be measured through a psychometric scale and used as a parameter to be correlated with the results of the variables studied by the research.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_desirability_bias#Devices"

Since "through a computer is good", I know there are many surveys that are administered through a computer. I'm not understanding why you wouldn't want to find ways to limit the social desirability bias rather than just rely on in person case study interviews?

Personally I mentioned when using the Scientific Method it's best to test from many many different angles rather than just one. However, if social desirability bias is a problem then why not limit it by having the questions asked through anonymous self-administration or through computer?
 
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  • #61
So if the only basis you have for understanding social-desirability bias is what you've read about it in books and articles, then you should really do the effort of self-reflecting and identifying with it in practice.
One of my past jobs was telephone surveys for a market research company. From personal experience I can say that the more "distance and anonymous they feel from you", the less likely they'll feel to impress you with their answers or social desirability bias. If you're in person face to face in a case study interview, they're really going to be feeling the social desirability bias. As far as being no nonsense down to earth, you can even see with your own ideas that the more anonymous/distance they feel, the less likely they feel to give an answer because they feel to impress.

You say that is just my personal experience and interpretation? Taking that logic that's why I'm saying relying on case studies alone may not necessarily give the big picture. Different researchers looking at case studies are going to see the exact same situation and interpret it much differently, in addition to plain having different situations. That's where looking at correlational studies has a big big advantage. To demonstrate this principle, would you agree smoking is bad for you? Along these lines, I talk to one person and they say they know someone who always smoked and developed lung cancer and died early. Then I come across another who says he had a grandpa who lived to be 100 and smoked most days of his life. He says that he thinks the Medical Field is lying when they say smoking is bad for you, and that you have to think for yourself rather than what the Medical Field says. What would you think if you heard on the news someone saying smoking is great for you because of a case study where someone lived to be 110 and smoked their whole life? That's what happens when relying on case studies alone, different experiences and interpretations. However, looking at correlation gives us a "bigger picture" that smoking is strongly related to premature death, lung cancer, certain heart diseases, etc. Although you can't prove for sure without using an experimental-control study (unethical to perform with smoking), when controlling for many third variables the correlation is still there.

That's why I'd be interested in setting up a study where you can look for correlations and control for third variables to see if there's any left over, in order to see a bigger picture. Also, although correlation doesn't prove causation, it's a requirement, and so if there's a correlation after controlling for many other variables it would give us more confidence (or the opposite if no correlation). Although you can't prove for sure, testing something with the Scientific Method is better than nothing at all.
 

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