Doomed by Gloom

Do you look unhappy in your college yearbook photo? Uh-oh …

Do you like your college yearbook photo, ladies? More to the point, do you look happy in your college yearbook photo? Gee whiz, I sure hope so, because UC Berkeley researchers followed women for decades and charted how their life experiences correlated with the “positive emotional expression” shown in their yearbook pictures. And, um, the more positive your photo, the more positive your life.

The researchers theorize that having a cheery emotional outlook enables us to build up our personal resources, so we’re less likely to fall victim to negative thinking and more likely to become, and feel, competent. As the abstract notes, “Positive emotional expression predicted favorable outcomes in marriage and personal well-being up to 30 years later.” Don’t you wish now that you’d smiled for the camera instead of trying to look all mysterious and cool?

On the brighter side, good looks and “social desirability” (as in, “Gad, she’s hot!”) turned out to have little impact on long-term life happiness. On the still-to-be-determined side, now that Facebook is making yearbooks obsolete, how will Berkeley researchers spend their time?