PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Does a professional sports team win create happiness throughout a city? Does sunshine after several consecutive days of rain brighten peoples' spirits?
New research published by McGill University and University of Pennsylvania suggests an unexpected improvement in everyday life, for example, the Eagles winning a playoff game or sunshine after days of rain, can create a change in a city's mood. It also increases the likelihood of citizens doing risky things, like gambling.
Social media allowed researchers to monitor the way citizens' moods fluctuated from day to day.
"We have found that Twitter users serve as the 'canaries' of their communities," said co-author Johannes Eichstaedt, a computational social scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. "What they say on Twitter is representative of the mood shared on the streets and in the local communities. So, using artificial intelligence, we were able to extract information about the mood of the community as a whole from what those on Twitter say."
Researchers evaluated the language expressed in social media data to determine how the mood of the tweets could be understand from day to day. Then, they went out and explored if positive unexpected circumstances could predict if a city would be in a good mood.
Then, they examined how the positive moods linked to increased risk-taking.
"When these cities were in a good mood, we would see more gambling and conversely when they were in a bad mood, we'd see less lottery gambling," said author Ross Otto, an associate professor of psychology at McGill University in Canada.
Turns out, the risk taking applied only to gambles which could lead to a possible positive outcome, like buying a lottery ticket, taking dangerous risks did not spike.
"Running a red light or engaging in drunk and disorderly conduct, unprotected sex, all the risk there is in the negative side," said Otto.
Otto says he is unsure exactly why the correlation between happiness and risk taking, but many Philadelphians have their theories.
"If something good is going to happen to them, why can't it happen to me," said one Philadelphian.
"Just the release of endorphins in your brain, I think you're excited," added another.
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