This post might fit very well into the series indexed here:
Today, let's look at happiness as a scientific phenomenon.
Mostly, today, scientists (grad students at least) are making "original" contributions to the body of human knowledge by doing statistical analyses of data long ago collected.
Some original studies, though, have been going on for decades, and still collecting data. Recently, Harvard reported on such a long term study of humans. We'll get to the Harvard study below, but first consider whether "science" can have anything to say or do about "happiness." Science studies absolutely everything about the real world, so if it can't study happiness, does that mean happiness isn't of the "real" world?
You can't "experiment" on humans but you can "study" behavior, and you can collect and analyze what humans SAY about this or that, and how a particular individual's assessment changes with time.
Nobody knows if this is because of age, per se, or if humans are actually changing.
Self-assessment is tricky, and science seems convinced that it is impossible for a person to assess themselves accurately (yet doctors still rely mostly on what people say about where it hurts or how they feel).
People are studying, and "correcting" statistics for, a phenomenon called "The Flynn Effect" which identifies reasons for differences in I.Q. measurements between 20 year olds, and 80 year olds. Do we really get stupid as we age? Is that why we seem to "mellow" out and become happier with our lot? There is so much to know!
Thus it appears that people in 1950 were a lot less smart than they are now, that is if you define intelligence in IQ scores. How is that possible? According to the Flynn effect theory, the increase in IQ scores can in part be ascribed to improvements in education and better nutrition.
But the gap seems to be narrowing, or measurements are improving. Nobody really understands this while we still use I.Q. tests for college entry evaluation. Grades and social involvement -- and parental contributions to the university -- all figure into "who" gets educated, but they also track who gets well fed. And we also have a raging argument about what, exactly, constitutes "healthy" food! Nobody really knows, but certain opinions get huge promotional money pushing them into general awareness because there are products for sale based on those opinions.
There are, at least right now, no products to buy to boost your HEA score.
In Fantasy, of course, there is the magic love potion. Find something else to write about!
A good science fiction romance could be crafted around such a discovery, but you'd need to study neurology and psychology to craft such a story.
Standardized "tests" of I.Q. have been relied upon to distinguish one type of human function from another, but even that is changing as various sorts of intelligence are identified as different from one another.
In other words, science is finally acknowledging that such a thing as Talent actually exists, distinguishing one person from another. Emotional Intelligence, mechanical, mathematical -- different parts of the brain are responsible for producing different sorts of effects on human behavior. The map still has "Here Be Dragons" around the edges.
Nobody knows if children can be raised to develop parts of the brain that were underdeveloped during gestation. Education and training do change brain development in humans, but studies are also showing new brain cells are constantly produced, even into old age.
See this Forbes article, also well covered by the BBC:
The Brain Can Give Birth To New Cells Throughout Life, Study Finds
So can Talent be infused by training? Is I.Q. a "Talent?"
See Part 7 in this series on Soul Mates and the HEA for a theory of how Soul and Spirit figure into human consciousness.
When you put it all together, we are only beginning to discover how MUCH we just plain don't know. That area, the Unknown, is the province of Science Fiction -- and Fantasy thrives there, too.
On Quora, I found a Question ...
Is someone with an IQ of 130 typically aware that they have gifted intelligence?
...and thoughtful answers ...
...that might help you sketch out the Characters for a (really hot) Romance, involving body, soul, and I.Q., wrapped in a package of Talent.
This one addresses self-awareness -- or in writer's terms, Internal Conflict.
Who you think you are vs. who other people think you are is a Conflict.
Is someone with an IQ of 130 typically aware that they have gifted intelligence?
Emmanuel Brun d'Aubignosc
Emmanuel Brun d'Aubignosc, Self Employed IT
Answered May 11 · Upvoted by Lauren Adele, MBA Psychology (1999)
An IQ 130 (SD15) is higher than 98% of the population. It is quite high, but not genius level either.
People with an IQ of 130 are intelligent enough to understand the scope of what they don’t understand, to have an idea of how little they know. Therefore they have a tendency to feel stupid more than anything else. Doing IQ tests might be a validation, but they will question them too.
I talked to someone who scored 155 on WAIS IV. He always insisted on that he isn’t that intelligent!
The more one knows, the more they are aware of how little they know. The smarter one is, the more they are aware of how little they really do understand. Only idiots think they are smart.
This may not be objectively TRUE -- but it sketches out an opinion your readership may hold firmly. That gives the writer a springboard into a dynamite plot. "You think you're so smart! I'll show you! So there!"
So clearly "intelligence" (whatever that is) does not guarantee an HEA, and in itself, doesn't "make" people happy. Neither high nor low scores correspond to happiness.
Could you list differences between moderately gifted (I.Q 130) and profoundly gifted (I.Q. 160)?
What is it like to have an IQ of 130?
How do I tell if somebody is intelligent?
Do people with 140 IQ see normal people (IQ 100 to 130) as stupid?
How can they tell how smart you are from an IQ test?
What are the characteristics of someone with a 125-130 IQ?
Is the difference between IQ 190 and 130 as big as between 130 and 70?
What are some signs of intelligence?
How can you increase your IQ?
I'm an elitist. What is wrong with thinking that smart individuals should only associate with other smart people?
Notice how none of the questioners are linking I.Q. to Happiness. Why?
Is there a link nobody has noticed? Could you create a hypothesis to use in a novel?
Which brings us to Harvard University's long term study. This one went for 80 years searching for a scientific answer that (as far as I know) everyone already knew.
Science is like that, you know. After centuries of argument, science declares to be true what everyone knew all along. What everyone knows is "folk wisdom" or "old wive's tales." What science knows is to be understood only by the high I.Q. individuals among us. Right?
Here's what Inc. Magazine said about the Harvard study.
Harvard Spent 80 Years Studying Happiness, and We Now Know the 1 Key Habit That Makes People Happier. (The Problem: Most People Never Even Try)
If you're not happy, at least now you have a roadmap.
Over time, it's turned into one of the most extensive longitudinal studies ever, and has revealed a trove of insights. Perhaps the most famous and useful insight is this oft-repeated quote by Robert J. Waldinger, who is the current head of the study:
"The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."
That's wonderful, right? But how do you fix your life if you don't happen to have good relationships?
An 'epidemic of loneliness'
To be honest, this is what's bugged me about this study for a long time: the clarity of the answer with no real guidance on how to get there.
Because it's one thing to say if you want to be happy, nurture good relationships.
And it's another to suggest that with a straight face in the context of the "epidemic of loneliness" that Americans largely feel today, in the words of more than one writer.
Considering the divorce rate, the delay in the current generation of marriage and children, and from the 1960's and 1970's, the breaking of communities by moving high I.Q. workers employed by corporations from city to city to climb the corporate ladder, and current increase in lifespan, it's no wonder we have about 40% of the population living in loneliness.
A few alarming statistics from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, just to back this up:
40 percent of Americans say they "sometimes or always feel their social relationships are not meaningful."
20 percent describe themselves as, "lonely or socially isolated."
28 percent of older adults live alone.
From a pure physical health perspective, researchers say loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
We have a generation of adults (book readers) who have not had the part of the brain responsible for "bonding" properly nurtured and developed as children. They have done OK for themselves, but have not been able to teach their children how to "bond" and form steady, solid, rooted communities.
And now the advent of social media is shifting relationships and bonding online, to the virtual world.
Is that a good thing? Or crippling?
Is it a part of the brain that is underdeveloped, or overdeveloped?
Or is it a component of the complex Soul (described in Part 7 of this series)
https://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2019/09/soul-mates-and-hea-real-or-fantasy-part.htmlthat is starved, over developed, under developed, or impaired?
What part of us BONDS? What part of the human being is responsible for relationships? Are we just primate bodies jerked around by pheromones? Or is something else going on?
Pick an answer to one of those questions and build a world around that premise. It will generate a long series of complex Romances.
The blush of First Love, the Romance condition, is an activated radical condition where all the parts of the human being (body and soul) are energized and able to break apart and reform into something new, emitting the energy of formation (e.g. children).
Somehow, Romance has been blunted, shunting aside, starved for energy in this new, dawning, culture of A.I.
Explain that and solve the problem - see if Love can conquer that All.