Sex and happiness

From here:

It is Carnegie Mellon professor George Loewenstein’s firm belief that, generally, married couples would be happier if they had more sex.

But a study that he published this month in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization found just the opposite.


The way the study was carried out could have biased the results:

For three months, half of the 64 married couples who participated in the study were told to double their current level of sexual activity, and half were given no instruction on changing their sexual frequency.

Those who increased their frequency had a slightly lower happiness level than couples whose sexual frequency remained unchanged. “They were, if anything, less happy,” said Mr. Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology. “They ended up wanting sex less and enjoying the sex that they did have less.”

The sample size seems a little small, and it would seem to me they should have divided their subjects into three groups and told one of the groups to reduce their sexual frequency by half.

Another thing that could be an issue is perhaps “double” is too much to see the benefits Loewenstein expected. Perhaps breaking the subjects into nine groups and have four increase by 25%, 50%, 75%, 100% and four groups decrease by 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%.

Loewenstein himself offers some other rationalizations for why he didn’t see the expected results.

I have to give Loewenstein credit for publishing his study results which contradict his expectations.


10 thoughts on “Sex and happiness

  1. We’ve never kept a log, so the very process of increasing or decreasing by some percentage would in and of itself change everything.

    What is x% of a random and spontaneous number?

    The test requires taking that which was spontaneous and making it obligatory.

    So let’s change the subject from sex to good will, and let’s tell volunteers in an experiment to increase or decrease their good will by 25%, 50%, 75%, etc.

    It actually makes no sense whatsoever, does it?

    Any way that I can look at it, the question itself (never mind the experiment design) is deeply flawed. If happiness resulted from sex, whores and sex slaves would be the happiest people on the planet.

    • You have some valid points. But you overstate your case by bringing in the “whores and sex slaves”. He doesn’t say his hypothesis is that increased sexual acts increase happiness. He says “married couples would be happier if they had more sex”.

  2. Gee, who might have guessed that making someone report something intimate and personal to a group of watchdogs, and then do more of it and report on that as well, could make people less happy?

  3. Maybe the issue isn’t having more sex but being told to have more sex. When something becomes a chore instead of a pleasure, I can see where happiness can decrease.

    Bob S.

  4. Work is anything you are doing when you would rather be doing something else.

  5. Or is it that happier couples tend to have more sex, and thus the question is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak?

    And what is “happiness” anyway? I believe that if you smoke crack, or shoot heroin, you will be “happy” for a time.

    Is “happiness” defined as having someone else to service your short term wants? What about the “happiness” of the person doing the servicing?

    If someone says they are unhappy, is that a mere statement of fact? And was that person asked, or did the answer come out without prompting? I.e. is a statement of un-happiness an attempt, in and of itself, at manipulation?

    (out of the blue) “I am unhappy.”
    “I’m sorry, Dear; what can I do to change that?”

    The statement of un-happiness can be either a plea for some favor or other, or statement of blame (which might be the same thing) or it might be an excuse of some kind. Otherwise why make the statement at all?

    “Are you happy?”
    “No; I want a million dollars and a harem, and I don’t have either, so I am un-happy.”

    In that case, the million dollars and the harem probabnly aren’t going to make that un-happy person happy. They could just as well make the person far more un-happy. I’ve seen it (well, not the harem part, but the million dollars part, and in any case the harem wouldn’t have changed anything substantially).

    My thesis (which isn’t mine, but is as old as the hills), which encompasses all of this, is that;
    If you’re looking to other people, places, and things for your happiness, you’re “looking for love in all the wrong places”. You’ll therefore never find it.

  6. “I have to give Loewenstein credit for publishing his study results which contradict his expectations.”

    That’s the key difference between a scientist and an advocate/lobbyist. The scientist, upon finding data which counters his/her theory, first checks for flaws in the data and study, and — if none are found — re-works his/her hypothesis and/or theory accordingly. This is the scientific method in action.

    The advocate/lobbyist, on the other hand, ignores contradictory data, assumes the study and data are flawed (the theory CANNOT be incorrect!), and ridicules any people who question the hypothesis as “deniers”. This is not scientific, even if it’s done by someone with a “Ph.D.” after his/her name.

    I do agree, though: the fact that Loewenstein still published when the study didn’t conclude the way he expected is a demonstration of his scientific integrity — a trait missing from much of academia these days.

  7. Or, maybe, those that are told they now have to do it twice a day instead of just daily are finding it a hard schedule to keep, as it were.

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