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Programming Science

Study: Happiness Improves Developers' Problem Solving Skills 91

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 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.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay