One interesting hypothesis, though, is that happy people have an ''everything is fine'' attitude that reduces the motivation for analytical thought. So they fall back on stereotypes -- including malicious ones.
Elsewhere, there are other arguments against the idea of happiness as an absolute good:
There is one bit of the world that happy people do see in an irrationally rosy light: themselves. As the British psychologist Richard P. Bentall has observed, ''There is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others.'' Indeed, Bentall has proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder.
Over the last few decades, it is precisely the groups that have made the most social progress in the United States -- women and educated African-Americans -- that have reported declines in their level of happiness. On reflection, this is not surprising. As education and freedom increase, desires -- and unmet desires -- inevitably multiply; our well-feeling may decrease, even as life becomes fuller and more meaningful. In Eastern nations like China, where happiness as a goal is less highly rated, people report lower levels of life satisfaction, but they also have lower suicide rates.
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