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Am Psychol. 2000 Jan;55(1):15-23.

The evolution of happiness.

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Department of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


An evolutionary perspective offers novel insights into some major obstacles to achieving happiness. Impediments include large discrepancies between modern and ancestral environments, the existence of evolved mechanisms "designed" to produce subjective distress, and the fact that evolution by selection has produced competitive mechanisms that function to benefit one person at the expense of others. On the positive side, people also possess evolved mechanisms that produce deep sources of happiness: those for mating bonds, deep friendship, close kinship, and cooperative coalitions. Understanding these psychological mechanisms--the selective processes that designed them, their evolved functions, and the contexts governing their activation--offers the best hope for holding some evolved mechanisms in check and selectively activating others to produce an overall increment in human happiness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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