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The “Happiness Ratio” debunked

A red "banned" circle over the cover of the book entitled Positivity

Ignore the maths in this book.

The Guardian has an in-depth piece on how amateur psychologist Nick Brown exposed the funny (read: false) math behind the “Positivity Ratio” that has been plastered all over the news and academia. You may have heard of it: You need to emphasize 3 positive things (or 2.9013 to be exact) for every 1 negative thing in order to keep a positive attitude and live a happy life.

Turns out it’s all bunk, of course:

“[Nick Brown] went back over Losada’s equations and he noticed that if he put in the numbers Fredrickson and Losada had then you could arrive at the appropriate figures. But he realised that it only worked on its own terms. ‘When you look at the equation, it doesn’t contain any data. It’s completely self-referential.'”

Positive Psychology should stick with the business-lecture circuit and stay out of the stats & measurement trenches if it wants to “flourish” instead of “languish.”


Hat tip to John Hunter on Twitter for the find.