Hope I die before I get old

Contrary to stereotypes, this study finds that older people tend to be happier than younger people:

Hope I die before I get old?
Study finds attitudes about aging contradict reality

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Back when he was 20 years old in 1965, rock star Pete Townshend wrote the line “I hope I die before I get old” into a song, “My Generation” that launched his band, the Who, onto the rock ‘n’ roll scene.

But a unique new study suggests that Townshend may have fallen victim to a common, and mistaken, belief: That the happiest days of people’s lives occur when they’re young.

In fact, the study finds, both young people and older people think that young people are happier than older people — when in fact research has shown the opposite. And while both older and younger adults tend to equate old age with unhappiness for other people, individuals tend to think they’ll be happier than most in their old age.

In other words, the young Pete Townshend may have thought others of his generation would be miserable in old age. And now that he’s 61, he might look back and think he himself was happier back then. But the opposite is likely to be true: Older people “mis-remember” how happy they were as youths, just as youths “mis-predict” how happy (or unhappy) they will be as they age.

The study, performed by VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and University of Michigan researchers, involved more than 540 adults who were either between the ages of 21 and 40, or over age 60. All were asked to rate or predict their own individual happiness at their current age, at age 30 and at age 70, and also to judge how happy most people are at those ages. The results are published in the June issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, a major research journal in the field of positive psychology.

“Overall, people got it wrong, believing that most people become less happy as they age, when in fact this study and others have shown that people tend to become happier over time,” says lead author Heather Lacey, Ph.D., a VA postdoctoral fellow and member of the U-M Medical School’s Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine. “Not only do younger people believe that older people are less happy, but older people believe they and others must have been happier ‘back then’. Neither belief is accurate.”

The findings have implications for understanding young people’s decisions about habits — such as smoking or saving money — that might affect their health or finances later in life. They also may help explain the fear of aging that drives middle-aged people to “midlife crisis” behavior in a vain attempt to slow their own aging.

Stereotypes about aging abound in our society, Lacey says, and affect the way older people are treated as well as the public policies that affect them.

That’s why research on the beliefs that fuel those one-size-fits-all depictions of older people is important, she explains. The study is one of the first ever to examine the ability of individuals to remember or predict happiness over the lifespan. Most studies of happiness have focused on people with chronic illness, disabilities or other major life challenges, or have taken “snapshots” of current happiness among older people.

The senior author of the new paper, Peter Ubel, M.D., has conducted several of these studies, and has found that ill people are often surprisingly happy, sometimes just as happy as healthy people. This suggests an adaptability or resilience in the face of their medical problems. Ubel is the director of the Center for Behavioral and Decision Sciences in Medicine, an advisor to the RWJ Clinical Scholars Program, and author of You’re Stronger Than You Think: Tapping the Secrets of Emotionally Resilient People (McGraw-Hill, 2006).

“People often believe that happiness is a matter of circumstance, that if something good happens, they will experience long-lasting happiness, or if something bad happens, they will experience long-term misery,” he says. “But instead, people’s happiness results more from their underlying emotional resources — resources that appear to grow with age. People get better at managing life’s ups and downs, and the result is that as they age, they become happier — even though their objective circumstances, such as their health, decline.”

Lacey adds, “It’s not that people overestimate their happiness, but rather that they learn how to value life from adversities like being sick. What the sick learn from being sick, the rest of us come to over time.” The new study, she explains, sprang from a desire to see whether the experience that comes with advancing age affects attitudes and predictions about aging.

The study was done using an online survey with six questions, asked in four different orders to reduce bias. The participants were part of large group of individuals who had previously volunteered to take online surveys, and chose to respond to the U-M/VA inquiry. The two age groups were about equally divided between men and women. About 35 percent of the younger group’s members were from ethnic minority groups, compared with 24 percent of the older group’s members.

Each participant was asked to rate his or her own current level of happiness on a scale of 1 to 10, and also to rate on that same scale how happy an average person of their age would be. Each participant was also asked to remember or predict (depending on their age) their level of happiness at age 30 and at age 70, again on a scale of 1 to 10. They were also asked to guess the happiness of the average person at each of those ages.

To make sure that their online survey methodology didn’t skew the results by including an atypical group of older people, the researchers compare the older group’s happiness self-ratings with those from self-ratings collected in other ways from people of the same age range. They matched.

In all, a statistical analysis of the results show, people in the older group reported a current level of happiness for themselves that was significantly higher than the self-rating made by the younger group’s members. And yet, participants of all ages thought that the average 30-year-old would be happier than the average 70-year-old, and that happiness would decline with age.

Interestingly, the younger people in the study predicted that they themselves would be about as happy at age 70 as they were in younger years, though they said that others their own age would probably get less happy over time. And the older people in the study tended to think that they’d be happier at older ages than other people would be.

This tendency to think of oneself as “above average” has been seen in other studies of everything from driving ability to intelligence, Lacey says. This bias may combine with negative attitudes about aging to help explain the study’s findings, she notes.

Further analysis of the study data will examine the impact of individuals’ core beliefs on their predictions and memory of happiness.

Since completing the study, the researchers have gone back to study people between the ages of 40 and 60, and hope to present those data soon. They also plan to study how beliefs about happiness in young and old age influence people’s retirement planning and health care decision making.


In addition to Lacey and Ubel, the study was co-authored by Dylan Smith, Ph.D., a research investigator at the CDBSM. The center’s web site is www.cbdsm.org. The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Reference: Journal of Happiness Studies, June 2006 Vol 7, Issue 2.

Gibberish vs Jargon

I first read of this incident when I was graduate school. This was about the same time the article in question was published. Every industry has its fluff, its way of protecting itself from economic loss due to complete efficiency. I discovered that academia’s shield was excessive jargon. In a nutshell, if people can’t understand what you are saying they can’t see that you have nothing to say.

The story below is about a physics professor who got annoyed with an academic movement centered on illegitimatizing the use of facts as justifications in arguments and which used excessive jargon to cover up how nonsensical this idea was.

He crafted an essay that consisted of almost nothing other than the latest academic buzz terms. He managed to get it published in some of the most prestigious journals despite it being literal nonsense.
Please don’t let the use of some political terms by the journalist reporting this incident throw you. This article is hilarious and provides a heads up of when to turn on a bull shit detector when dealing with academics

Postmodern Gravity Deconstructed,

The following article was published in The New York Times, May 18, 1996.

by Janny Scott

New York University physicist, fed up with what he sees as the excesses of the academic left, hoodwinked a well-known journal into publishing a parody thick with gibberish as though it were serious scholarly work. The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” appeared this month in Social Text, a journal that helped invent the trendy, sometimes baffling field of cultural studies. Now the physicist, Alan Sokal, is gloating. And the editorial collective that publishes the journal says it sorely regrets its mistake.

But the journal’s co-founder says Professor Sokal is confused. “He says we’re epistemic relativists,” complained Stanley Aronowitz, the co-founder and a professor at CUNY. “We’re not. He got it wrong. One of the reasons he got it wrong is he’s ill-read and half-educated.” The dispute over the article–which was read by several editors at the journal before it was published–goes to the heart of the public debate over left-wing scholarship, and particularly over the belief that social, cultural and political conditions influence and may even determine knowledge and ideas about what is truth.

In this case, Professor Sokal, 41, intended to attack some of the work of social scientists and humanists in the field of cultural studies, the exploration of culture–and, in recent years, science–for coded ideological meaning. In a way, this is one more skirmish in the culture wars, the battles over multiculturalism and college curriculums and whether there is a single objective truth or just many differing points of view. Conservatives have argued that there is truth, or at least an approach to truth, and that scholars have a responsibility to pursue it. They have accused the academic left of debasing scholarship for political ends.

“While my method was satirical, my motivation is utterly serious,” Professor Sokal wrote in a separate article in the current issue of the magazine Lingua Franca, in which he revealed the hoax and detailed his “intellectual and political” motivations. “What concerns me is the proliferation, not just of nonsense and sloppy thinking per se, but of a particular kind of nonsense and sloppy thinking: one that denies the existence of objective realities,” he wrote in Lingua Franca.

In an interview, Professor Sokal, who describes himself as “a leftist in the old-fashioned sense,” said he worried that the trendy disciplines and obscure jargon could end up hurting the leftist cause. “By losing contact with the real world, you undermine the prospect for progressive social critique,” he said.

Norman Levitt, a professor of mathematics at Rutgers University and an author of a book on science and the academic left that first brought the new critique of science to Professor Sokal’s attention, yesterday called the hoax “a lot of fun and a source of a certain amount of personal satisfaction.”

“I don’t want to claim that it proves that all social scientists or all English professors are complete idiots, but it does betray a certain arrogance and a certain out-of-touchness on the part of a certain clique inside academic life,” he said.

Professor Sokal, who describes himself as “a leftist and a feminist” who once spent his summers teaching mathematics in Nicaragua, said he became concerned several years ago about what academics in cultural studies were saying about science. “I didn’t know people were using deconstructive literary criticism not only to study Jane Austen but to study quantum mechanics,” he said yesterday. Then, he said, he read Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and its Quarrel With Science by Professor Levitt and Paul R. Gross. Professor Sokal said the book, which analyzes the critique of science, prompted him to begin reading work by the critics themselves. “I realized it would be boring to write a detailed refutation of these people,” he said. So, he said, he decided to parody them.

“I structured the article around the silliest quotes about mathematics and physics from the most prominent academics, and I invented an argument praising them and linking them together,” he said. “All this was very easy to carry off because my argument wasn’t obliged to respect any standards of evidence or logic.”

To a lay person, the article appears to be an impenetrable hodgepodge of jargon, buzzwords, footnotes and other references to the work of the likes of Jacques Derrida and Professor Aronowitz. Words like hegemony, counterhegemonic and epistemological abound. In it, Professor Sokal wrote: “It has thus become increasingly apparent that physical ‘reality,’ no less than social ‘reality,’ is at bottom a social and linguistic construct; that scientific ‘knowledge,’ far from being objective, reflects and encodes the dominant ideologies and power relations of the culture that produced it.”

Andrew Ross, a co-editor of Social Text who also happens to be a professor at N.Y.U., said yesterday that about a half-dozen editors at the journal dealt with Professor Sokal’s unsolicited manuscript. While it appeared “a little hokey,” they decided to publish it in a special issue they called Science Wars, he said. “We read it as the earnest attempt of a professional scientist to seek some sort of philosophical justification for his work,” said Professor Ross, director of the American studies program at N.Y.U. “In other words, it was about the relationship between philosophy and physics.”

Now Professor Ross says he regrets having published the article. But he said Professor Sokal misunderstood the ideas of the people he was trying to expose. “These are caricatures of complex scholarship,” he said. Professor Aronowitz, a sociologist and director of the Center for Cultural Studies at CUNY, said Professor Sokal seems to believe that the people he is parodying deny the existence of the real world. “They never deny the real world,” Professor Aronowitz said. “They are talking about whether meaning can be derived from observation of the real world.”

Professor Ross said it would be a shame if the hoax obscured the broader issues his journal sought to address, “that scientific knowledge is affected by social and cultural conditions and is not a version of some universal truth that is the same in all times and places.”

Coiled Gibberish in a Thicket of Prose

Following is an excerpt from “Transgressing the Boundaries,” a parody by Prof. Alan D. Sokal of New York University that was published in the journal Social Text as a serious article.

“Here my aim is to carry these deep analyses one step further, by taking account of recent developments in quantum gravity: the emerging branch of physics in which Heisenberg’s quantum mechanics and Einstein’s general relativity are at once synthesized and superseded. In quantum gravity, as we shall see, the space-time manifold ceases to exist as an objective physical reality; geometry becomes relational and contextual; and the foundational conceptual categories of prior science–among them, existence itself–become problematized and relativized. This conceptual revolution, I will argue, has profound implications for the content of a future postmodern and liberatory science.”
( Janny Scott, “Postmodern Gravity Deconstructed, Slyly,” New York Times, May 18, 1996, pp. 1, 11. )

Albert Ellis Foundation

Dr. Albert Ellis is considered to be one of the greats of western pyschology along side names such as Freud and Jung.
Albert Ellis is still alive. At 93 he still sees clients and is still writing books.

Albert Ellis invented REBT ( rational emotive behavioural therapy ) in the 1950s.

REBT preceeded and is now a subset of cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy has proved to be as effective as medication in clinical trials.

REBT is based on the idea that thoughts cause emotions and influence behavior. Emotions as well behaviors can be changed by disputing irrational beliefs with facts and logic, forming new rational beliefs, and behaving in a way that is consistent with the new rational beliefs.

I am excited to write that there is now a foundation bearing Dr. Ellis’ name with a web site full of of cool resources:


If you are interested in learning more about REBT one of the best books on the subject is Dr. Ellis’ “A Guide To Rational Living” :