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Aargh! It’s the happiest day of the year!

June 23rd, 2006

Dr Petra

Yes, psychologist Cliff Arnall is at it again. You may remember him as the man who fronts PR based research for Walls Ice Cream and Sky Travel (amongst others) using formulas to show how different days of the year are the happiest, saddest, luckiest and so on.

Some journalists and many academics have expressed concern about Arnall’s work. A growing body of criticism about the accuracy of his formulas and professional practice has appeared in newspaper articles and blogs. But that’s not stopped the press generally running stories based on his research on a regular basis.

Today is apparently the ‘happiest day’ – explained by the ‘formula’ O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He. O stands for being outdoors and outdoor activity, N for nature, S for social interaction, Cpm for childhood summers and positive memories, T for temperature and He for holidays and looking forward to time off.

Which assumes we’re all enjoying outdoor activities in a natural environment, joined by other people, and with the added supposition that we all enjoyed holidays and warm summers, with happy childhood memories. If nothing else, the latter idea of a warm English summer ought to show up this formula as rubbish.

Of course it’s a formula created for a piece of free advertising for an ice-cream manufacturer (because whilst reminding us what a happy day it is, we’re also encouraged to celebrate it with a nice ice cream).

I don’t need a formula to encourage me to eat ice cream. I do it regardless of the day of the year. Although I’m more likely to tuck into a nice tub of Ben & Jerry’s when I’m depressed. As a result, on this ‘happiest day of the year’ this bad science story has led to me eating a whole tub of ice cream this evening.

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