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Programming Science

Study: Happiness Improves Developers' Problem Solving Skills 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the think-happy dept.
itwbennett writes "Researchers at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in Italy have found that happier programmers (or, more specifically, computer science students at the university) were significantly more likely to score higher on a problem solving assessment. The researchers first measured the emotional states of study participants using a measure devised by psychologists called the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience Affect Balance (SPANE-B) score. They then tested participants' creativity (ability to write creative photo captions) and problem-solving ability (playing the Tower of London game). The results: happiness didn't affect creativity, but did improve problem-solving ability."
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Study: Happiness Improves Developers' Problem Solving Skills

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @10:12PM (#46470355)

    People good at solving problems are happier.

    • by gwstuff (2067112) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:23PM (#46470613)

      My first reaction to this comment was "certainly not, not in a competently executed experiment..." But looking at the methodology these guys use, their SPANE test thing grades people by general happiness, rather than a temporary state that they are steered into. So yeah, you cannot rule a general correlation between the two things, or even more generally that the problem solvers report their SPANE scores higher (which doesn't strictly mean that they are happier...)

      Most good experiments that deal with emotional state rule out such associations by deliberately steering multiple control groups into a 'happy' or 'unhappy' state.

      For example, in one experiments, people were brought together and asked to participate in a general group discussion. They were then told that they would be interacting in pairs, and had to anonymously write down the name of their preferred partner on a chit of paper. The experimenters collected these chits in a box, and quietly took them to the back and DISCARDED THEM in the garbage.

      They then took each individual aside one by one, and for one half of the group, told the individual that he had been chosen by every other person but was the odd man out and had to work alone. For the other half, the person was told that nobody chose him and so he had to work alone. All of the participants were given logic puzzles to solve.

      The experimenters found out that the 'happier' group of people who thought that they were cool and popular generally performed better, and even more ostensibly were less likely to binge on the cookie jar placed next to them while doing the puzzles. The dejected group of supposedly unpopular people ate twice as many cookies and generally fared worse at the puzzles.

      Studies that make this conclusion (happiness => more productive) are pretty common.

      • My first reaction to this comment was "certainly not, not in a competently executed experiment..." But looking at the methodology these guys use, their SPANE test thing grades people by general happiness, rather than a temporary state that they are steered into. So yeah, you cannot rule a general correlation between the two things, or even more generally that the problem solvers report their SPANE scores higher (which doesn't strictly mean that they are happier...)

        It's actually depressing the number of lousy experiments that get done lately. It wouldn't be surprising if you dug into this study a little deeper and found that because of methodology, nothing can actually be concluded from the experiment. That it's a completely inconclusive experiment.

    • by mrmeval (662166) <mrmeval&gmail,com> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:38PM (#46470667) Journal

      People who get regular sex are happier and more productive.

      It's a health care issue and should be mandated the employer pays for whores.

      • Not generalizable. You have not proven that normal sex is equivalent to sex with whores.

      • by Concerned Onlooker (473481) on Thursday March 13, 2014 @01:36AM (#46471037) Homepage Journal

        "People who get regular sex are happier and more productive."

        You misspelled reproductive.

      • People who get regular sex are happier and more productive.

        I'd rather say they can be quite productive if they are not "protective".

      • by antdude (79039)

        No wonder, I am not :) and not (re)productive. :(

      • People who get regular sex are happier and more productive.

        Therefore, whores are the world's happiest and most productive people. Wonder why we've gotten that wrong for so many millennia.

    • by BreakBad (2955249)

      Well....happiness IS a warm gun.

      Guns solve problems...just saying.

    • They tested people that want to solve problems for a living. If I am good at what I want to do, I will be happier in general.

      If all I see is money, and nothing but obstacles between me and money, I won't be as happy.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or students with better problem solving skills are happier.

  • From TFA "It seems obvious to say that happy developers will perform better than unhappy ones"

    Then FTFA goes on and on explaining ... the obvious.

    • Obviously, unhappy developers are spending a fair amount of brain power plotting their revenge on whatever is making them unhappy...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Aren't happier people better at pretty much everything? Isn't that sort of the problem with depression?

    • by causality (777677)

      Aren't happier people better at pretty much everything? Isn't that sort of the problem with depression?

      It's also the problem with alienation and dehumanization, not merely depression. Go out sometime and see for yourself, how rarely people talk to one another like fellow human beings. Usually they would rather talk at someone, listen poorly and keep interrupting (because they have no patience) even when they are listening to an answer to their own question, and generally can't relax and slow down and "take in" much of anything. The irony is, this rushed and hurried approach to life is so error-prone that

  • See the semi-obligatory XKCD here. [xkcd.com]

    • See the semi-obligatory XKCD here. [xkcd.com]

      Of course correlation implies causation - or at least suggests it - it just doesn't prove causation.

      As the obligatory XKCD points out (I think).

  • Real World (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jawnah (1022209)
    I'm not really sure this is applicable to the real world since most software developers don't live/work in Silicon Valley so the concept of taking a break to go play volleyball or hackeysack is pretty much a "non-starter". I think they should really evaluate the productivity of developers in the two scenarios that most apply to the real world: 1) Your managers are incompetent when it comes to what it is that you do, how you do your job, and what makes you happy. They do, however, understand obnoxious "devel
    • by sdlowrey (3021967)
      I believe that the "real world" is a fallacy. Everyone has their own perception of reality. Furthermore, they can accept it or reject it. If working conditions preclude any sense of reward, accomplishment, progress, self-worth, yadda yadda, then the worker has to change the situation. That's not always easy, sure, but the alternative is to remain unhappy. Of course, I'm avoiding any definition of the term "happy". I changed jobs 6 months ago and I'm happy. Some days suck, the work is challenging, we
      • Re:Real World (Score:4, Insightful)

        by causality (777677) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:28PM (#46470631)

        I believe that the "real world" is a fallacy. Everyone has their own perception of reality.

        I would go so far as to say that you never truly reached adulthood until you can clearly and effortlessly distinguish objective, evidence-based reality from your own subjective feelings and opinions and wishes. Objectivity is when your own tastes and preferences do not influence your decision-making about anything important.

        Until you can do that, life is a chaotic mess with no solutions except those that create more and more problems.

        • However, despite everything, the incompetency of managers is like the speed of light, a universal constant. No matter the frame of reference you pick, you measure the same speed.
        • While: "All opinions are not equal. Some are a very great deal more robust, sophisticated and well supported in logic and argument than others.”,
          "The map is not the territory; the word is not the thing."
          Your tastes and preferences define your notion of importance. This is empirically verifiable. The empirical map is labeled by and drawn for utility. It's cybernetically abstract. Analysis has transfinite potential thus all rationality is necessarily bounded rationality, thus heuristics are required. A
          • by causality (777677)

            Your tastes and preferences define your notion of importance. This is empirically verifiable.

            I don't dispute that. What I contend is that, while doing so, one should recognize that it amounts to viewing the world through the lens of one's own interests. Any decisions made are tempered by that knowledge.

            It's a self-awareness beyond standard ego consciousness. It tends to make you truly ashamed of and prepared to abandon any sort of self-centered, exploitative motive.

            It's one of those things that anyone is capable of doing, provided they really want to.

            • Uh, that's quasi-religious dogma... There's nothing rational about being superego ridden by a reified, deified "Man". I don't defer to the herd like a good little tool.

              Man, your head is haunted; you have wheels in your head! You imagine great things, and depict to yourself a whole world of gods that has an existence for you, a spirit-realm to which you suppose yourself to be called, an ideal that beckons to you. You have a fixed idea! Do not think that I am jesting or speaking figuratively when I regard those persons who cling to the Higher, and (because the vast majority belongs under this head) almost the whole world of men, as veritable fools, fools in a madhouse. What is it, then, that is called a "fixed idea"? An idea that has subjected the man to itself. When you recognize, with regard to such a fixed idea, that it is a folly, you shut its slave up in an asylum. And is the truth of the faith, say, which we are not to doubt; the majesty of (e. g.) the people, which we are not to strike at (he who does is guilty of — lese-majesty); virtue, against which the censor is not to let a word pass, that morality may be kept pure; — are these not "fixed ideas"? Is not all the stupid chatter of (e. g.) most of our newspapers the babble of fools who suffer from the fixed idea of morality, legality, Christianity, etc., and only seem to go about free because the madhouse in which they walk takes in so broad a space?

        • by artor3 (1344997)

          Objectivity is when your own tastes and preferences do not influence your decision-making about anything important.

          Then objectivity doesn't exist, outside of some simple math problems. If you think that people have "never truly reached adulthood" until they can do this, then we're living in Never Never Land.

          People aren't computers. We're all influenced by our upbringing, our beliefs, our experiences. You can (and should!) expose yourself to new things, and broaden your perspective a bit, but that just means you have a broader base of things to influence your thinking, not that you've become objective.

  • Hmmmmm. I think I remember that feeling.
  • get'em laid (Score:5, Funny)

    by sgt scrub (869860) <saintium&yahoo,com> on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @10:56PM (#46470539)

    I've been saying all along that the schools should get the geeks laid instead of the jocks. Even with this study they still won't listen.

    • by causality (777677)

      I've been saying all along that the schools should get the geeks laid instead of the jocks. Even with this study they still won't listen.

      I don't know. There is something romantic about choosing to be a geek, against the grain, up the hill, against all odds and disincentives, doing it because you really want to and not because you were bribed into it. It shows great courage and spirit, which I believe is closer to what life is all about. The ones who "go with the flow" and do whatever is the path of least resistance are cowardly and hedonistic by comparison.

      • by narcc (412956)

        That's some serious self-delusion there.,,

      • I've been saying all along that the schools should get the geeks laid instead of the jocks. Even with this study they still won't listen.

        I don't know. There is something romantic about choosing to be a geek, against the grain, up the hill, against all odds and disincentives, doing it because you really want to and not because you were bribed into it. It shows great courage and spirit, which I believe is closer to what life is all about. The ones who "go with the flow" and do whatever is the path of least resistance are cowardly and hedonistic by comparison.

        True.

        But it's still kind of nice to get laid.

    • And call them what? The girls I mean.
      * Escorte girls because they join you on you long and ardous voyage through insurmoutable coding problems? 5 mins and they 're asleep.
      * Confort girls because they confort you in the feeling that all the sacrefices you make (no social life, even your own mother doesn't recognise you from time to time) is worth it for the bigger good? Well the bigger the better I'd say.
      * Geisha because you think her excuisite table manners reflects the refinement you put in you code crafti

  • Another useless 'study' that falls into the 'duh' category for me. Who funds this rubbish and why?

  • I can buy that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Snotnose (212196) on Wednesday March 12, 2014 @11:19PM (#46470605)
    I've worked 2 stints at Qualcomm, 4 years as a consultant in the late 90s, and 4 years as an employee in the mid 00's. I've never worked so hard, put in more hours, got more stuff done, cranked out more code, etc, as I have in my QCOM time. Why? In meetings my ideas were listened to. I had a ton of freedom in my job to Get Things Done. I was recognized for Stuff I Got Done. I was not bogged down in daily staff meetings, weekly department meetings, etc. I had input on who to hire for my team. Most of all, I Had A Door I Could Close (but never did). Treat your employees like intelligent people, give them the tools they need, get out of the way, and they will not only be happy, but productive as fuck. And why the fuck can't I format this in any way except for 1 paragraph? Cuz that ain't how I wrote it, none of my html tricks are doing squat, and I'm prolly off to Soylent News soon anyway.
    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      And why the fuck can't I format this in any way except for 1 paragraph? Cuz that ain't how I wrote it, none of my html tricks are doing squat, and I'm prolly off to Soylent News soon anyway.

      Didn't see one html "trick" in the quotation ofyour post. Saw paragraphs without html.

      bold

      italic

      seems to be working.

  • by The Cat (19816)

    They're programmers. They'll get fired anyway. This is America.

  • It's the SPANE, but they're in ITALY?

  • Slartibartfast: Perhaps I'm old and tired, but I think that the chances of finding out what's actually going on are so absurdly remote that the only thing to do is to say, "Hang the sense of it," and keep yourself busy. I'd much rather be happy than right any day.
    Arthur Dent: And are you?
    Slartibartfast: Ah, no. [laughs] That's where it all falls down, of course.

  • All the unhappy coders seem to be able to crank out is:
    while (1): print 'What's the point, we are all going to die anyway';
  • of their husbands. Social science is BS and social scientists should have their collective balls cut off in Circus Maximus and then thrown to the lions.

    Just wondering how does that or this happiness improves anything in life of a common nerd who has to struggle with his/her own communication ineptitude and social awkwardness? Or how does that apply to poor neurologically typical sods that work in IT and have to struggle with the nerds around them as well as with the awkwardness of working with code? In oth

  • If a certain problem was there my mind is really working in the process! Once it's solved! That skill is a skill to solve a problem. That would make me happy either.
  • From the Center of Completely Fucking Obvious
  • This is reminiscent of another study which found that asking people how they'd deal with a big car repair bill - just getting them to think about it - lowered their IQ by an average of 13 points, "comparable to the cognitive difference that’s been observed between chronic alcoholics and normal adults".

    http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2013/08/how-poverty-taxes-brain/6716/

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976

    The advantage of the car-repair-bill study is that people were randoml

  • It's not happiness that helps problem solving skills, it's using their penis (for sex) that helps.

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