The holiday season is now in full swing, with all its joys and also all its stresses. How can you maximize the former while reducing the latter? Helpful scientists have been busy trying to solve this challenge. Occasionally their efforts have yielded useful advice for a happier festive season, and sometimes the results are just hilarious.
Either way, PsyBlog has rounded up recent holiday-related research. I've culled the studies that are neither useful nor funny - like the one that confirms women pretend to be happy about gifts they don't like while men don't, causing fights - to offer you a quick guide to the science of the season:
1. It really is better to give than to receive.
Your mom was right: "This neat research found that spending money on others promotes our own happiness better than spending money on ourselves," reports PsyBlog.
2. It's possible to fake the feast.
Not the best cook? Don't worry, hilarious science confirms you can trick your loved ones into enjoying your mediocre cooking simply by tweaking how you present it and serving it up with a hefty dose of (pleasant) BS.
"Brian Wansink, a food psychologist, describes all sorts of cool tricks for boosting people's perceptions of the food they are eating. It's all about harnessing the 'halo effect'. Leave parsley and chervil lying around, talk about the organic turkey farmer you know, use evocative labels for the food you're serving, tell them the wine is first rate, even if it's all just talk," suggests PsyBlog. Consider permission granted then to just grab a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket and rely on your salesmanship instead of your kitchen skills if that's more up your alley
3. Money makes a terrible gift.
Economists and deluded spouses sometimes suggest that just giving money would be the best way to make everyone happier over the holidays. But psychology suggests that people just aren't that rational (no shock there).
"This study finds money is probably a bad gift perhaps because it can't send a meaningful message about intimacy and tends to send the wrong message about status differences," notes PsyBlog, adding "perhaps that's why it seems to be OK to give money to children, but not adults."
4. Christmas can cause hallucinations.
You thought the constant Christmas songs playing on loop since Halloween was bad? Well, I have bad news for you: even if all the stores in the country collective swore off carols, you'd still probably end up hearing a few holiday tunes this season.
In this "neat little study... participants were asked to listen to white noise and press a button when they heard Bing Crosby singing 'White Christmas'. Almost one-third of the participants pressed the button at least once despite the noise being white-only with not a hint of Christmas," reports PsyBlog. You be the judge of whether that's festive or just alarming.
5. The best chocolate is all the chocolate.
Sometimes it's the little things that make the difference, like which chocolate you choose to indulge in over the holidays. If you're looking for scientific guidance on this thorny question, it's finally here and the findings are... basically to go ahead and pig out on all of them.
"What to choose for maximum pleasure: normal chocolate, milk chocolate or dark chocolate? For the answer we turn to the Chocolate Happiness Undergoing More Pleasantness study. That's right, the CHUMP study. It's a real thing, and it's a randomised controlled trial. Unfortunately the results were inconclusive so you'll be forced to conduct your own research," jokes PsyBlog.
Enjoy your research and happy holidays!