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The Four Greatest Psychological Discoveries of 2016

Yes, you have had a lot to deal with in 2016. Your job, your family, your finances, and the election, to name a few.

While your attention has been focused on all of these personal and societal challenges, scientists have been working behind the scenes to learn what you can do to become happier and healthier in 2017 and beyond.

Here are four impactful studies that offer valuable information that can guide your decisions and focus in the coming year.


Research has long shown us that money and happiness are only weakly related. In other words, well-being cannot be bought.  Now a brand-new study by Matz et al, (2016) has looked more closely at the relationship between money and happiness.

These researchers looked at the bank transactions of 625 people for six months. They also assessed the personalities and life satisfaction of those people. Their findings were fascinating.

They found that people who spend money on things that suit their own personalities the best are the happiest, regardless of the amount spent.

The Takeaway: Pay attention to yourself, your own likes and dislikes. What makes you happy? What do you enjoy? Focus less on the amount of money you have to spend, and more on knowing exactly what makes you feel happy and satisfied. That’s where your money should go.


The way you deal with your emotions has a direct effect on your health in some very specific ways.

Haase et al., (2016) observed couples in conflict for only 15 minutes, and simply by observing the husbands’ emotional behaviors over that brief period, were able to accurately predict the health problems those men would develop over the next 20 years.

More specifically, they found that men who showed immediate, intense anger were more likely to develop blood pressure problems. Those who shut down or stonewalled during conflict were far more likely to develop back problems.

The Takeaway: Learning how to manage and express your anger is vital not only to the health of your marriage, but also to the health of your body. Anger management is a skill, and it can be learned. Anger – Awareness – Expression. Anger management is a skill, and you can get better at it.


What’s the best way to make and keep friends? Czarna et al, 2016 wanted to know.

These researchers measured freshman college students on two separate traits: their narcissistic tendencies and their emotional intelligence (EI). They checked in with the students again three months later to see whether their popularity had increased or decreased.

They found that the students who were the least popular were low in both narcissism and EI. Those high in narcissism and high EI did the best. They attracted friends early and held on to them. The largest group had average narcissism and average EI. Not surprisingly, they did average in terms of popularity.

The most important finding was that emotional intelligence was the key; EI was the most powerful factor in quality and length of friendships.

The Takeaway: If you want to have high-quality, lasting friendships, you can. Work on getting better at all of the components of EI: recognizing emotions in yourself and others, managing emotions, and empathy.


Empathy is a key component of emotional intelligence. It’s a major factor in the quality of your friendships, your work success and your marriage. Most people think empathy is a gut instinct, and you either have it or you don’t.

Ma-Kellams & Lerner, 2016 found that actually, the opposite seems to be true. In a series of studies, they found that systematic thinkers are more accurate at reading other people than intuitive types. In another study they instructed participants to think either intuitively or analytically and compared the results. Once again, analytical, systematic thinking worked best.

The Takeaway:  Empathy is an important skill, not a gut instinct. You can build this skill by purposely thinking about how you would feel if you were in another person’s shoes, and analyzing his or her situation.

My 2017 wishes for you:

That you will have the self-awareness to know what you enjoy, and be able to spend your money from your heart.

That you will use your anger to motivate you, and express it in a healthy way.

That you will deepen and strengthen your friendships by cultivating your emotional intelligence.

That you will use your brainpower to increase your ability to empathize with others.

To learn more about how to build your self-awareness, manage your emotions, and increase your emotional intelligence, see and the book, Running on Empty.

Happy New Year!

Photo by Mediocre2010

The Four Greatest Psychological Discoveries of 2016

Jonice Webb PhD

Jonice Webb has a PhD in clinical psychology, and is author of the bestselling books Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect and Running On Empty No More: Transform Your Relationship. She has appeared on CBS News, New England Cable News, and NPR about Childhood Emotional Neglect, and has been quoted as a psychologist expert in the Chicago Tribune and CNBC. She currently has a private psychotherapy practice in the Boston area, where she specializes in the treatment of couples and families. To read more about Dr. Webb, her books and Childhood Emotional Neglect, you can visit her website,

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APA Reference
Webb PhD, J. (2017). The Four Greatest Psychological Discoveries of 2016. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 11, 2018, from


Last updated: 2 Jan 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 2 Jan 2017
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