by Amanda Ng (’18)
In an effort to help those dealing with depression and enhance general happiness, recent psychological treatments have focused on advancing a field called “positive psychology”. “Positive psychology” focuses on strategies and intentional activities to enhance a person’s well-being by inducing positive emotions and behaviors.
In this study, led by Dr. Sara Wellenzohn of the University of Zurich, Switzerland, a positive psychology intervention focusing on humor was tested in 955 adults over the age of 18 in four different groups, three of which experienced experimental conditions, and one which served as the placebo group. These adults were not taking any kind of medication or going through any psychological treatment. In each of the three experimental groups, participants were asked to describe their experiences in a certain time period (the past, the present, or the future) as well as three humorous things that happened or may happen in that time period for seven consecutive days. The placebo group was asked to reflect upon childhood experiences for ten to fifteen minutes each evening for seven consecutive days. After the week was over, the participants filled out a post-test questionnaire about their general well-being and potential changes that may have occurred.
As the researchers hypothesized, the experimental groups with the positive psychology intervention had a higher rate of positive perception and savoring positive emotions than the placebo group, although the difference was not statistically significant in either case. Additionally, those participants in the present group had higher rates of both factors when compared to the past and future groups. Future research will focus on more effective humor instructions and interventions to provide a significant alternative for depression patients that have been unable to improve as a result of medication and therapy.
- Wellenzohn, et. al., How do positive psychology interventions work? A short-term placebo-controlled humor-based study on the role of the time focus. Personality and Individual Differences 96, 1-6 (2016). doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.02.056
- Image Retrieved From: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Positive_psychology_optimism.svg