Big Data Can Tell Us How Happy We Are

Author Andrew Zolli at Spotlight Health 2016. He works on issues at the intersection of innovation, social change, and resilience. 
The smiley faces you use to adorn friends’ Facebook posts are more than just cute cartoon icons. Scientists are using them for psychological research. In 2013, researchers at UC Berkeley partnered with Facebook to create a set of emojis that represent humans’ complex emotions. With help from a Pixar animator, the emoticons showed sympathy, anger, sadness, and surprise. Scientists are using the icons to study where the most happiness and frustration exists around the world. “For instance,” says Andrew Zolli, author of Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back, “they could see cultures of love. Where in the world is all the love being expressed? Where is all the irritation?” Zolli says the findings show Americans express more anger than their neighbors in Canada. And, surprisingly, North Koreans express high levels of happiness, but only because they’re forced. “The happiest places in the world are not where the most happiness is expressed. Using the happy icon did not correlate with the best indicators of social inclusion, social progress, and economic welfare.” 
How can big data help us find greater balance and less stress in our everyday environments? Watch more from Andrew Zolli’s talk at Spotlight Health.


iPhone Photo Contest
Announcing the first ever Aspen Ideas photo contest! The America I Know track at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival looks at our deeply divided country and how we can build bridges. As part of the track, we’re partnering with IPPAWARDS, or the iPhone Photography Awards, to explore as many “Americas” as we can through the modern camera lens. Find out more, and enter the contest for a chance to win a pass to the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival.
The Science of Meditation
What actually happens to the brain when we meditate? Published studies document many physical and mental health benefits, including decreased pain and better immune function. In this Aspen Ideas to Go episode, meditation teacher and director of the David Lynch Foundation Bob Roth talks with documentary filmmaker Perri Peltz about the scientific case for taking up meditation. Subscribe on iTunes, your favorite podcasting app, and now, on NPR One.
Memorable Words
“This is so ingrained in our society, the idea of deserving and undeserving. When a person needs redemption or help or empathy, we all deserve that. All victims deserve healing; all perpetrators deserve a chance to prove themselves as better people." — Vivian Nixon, Aspen Ideas 2016