Excel At Life logo


PsychArticles button PsychNotes button PsychApps button PsychAudios button PsychTests button About button
Support Excel At Life's Mission!
Help Translate
Spread the Word
Make Contribution
Become a fan on Facebook! Follow on twitter for site updates! Follow on Google+ for site updates!
Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career











Sport Psych


Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Meadow Relaxation

Rainy Autumn Morning

Energizing Audios

Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

The Porcupine Effect: Pushing Others Away When You Want to Connect

What if You Considered Other Peoples' Views?

5 Common Microaggressions Against Those With Mental Illness

What to Expect from Mindfulness-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) When You Have Depression and Anxiety

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Lack Compassion? It Depends Upon the Therapist

When Needs Come Into Conflict

What to Do When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?


Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training

Riding a Horse Across the Plains

Cityscape Mindfulness

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

All Audio Articles

PsychNotes March 2016

PsychNotes Index

Previous Month        Next Month

March 1, 2016       

Understanding Research: Colors, Happiness, and Weight Loss

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Recently, while I painted the interior of my home and was covered in yellow and green paint, I heard on the radio: “Research shows the colors green and yellow in your home make you happy.” My immediate reaction was “Great! We should be very happy here.”

But then, of course, my research-oriented mind started wondering: Maybe yellow and green don't make you happy but maybe happy people are more likely to decorate with yellow and green. Of course, the radio personality didn't clarify how this research was conducted but I suspect it wasn't a randomized design which means it could be open to interpretation.

As many of you may be aware from my writing, I have an issue with how media (mis)interprets health research. Often the public is provided information that is inaccurate or misleading. Even though the colors of house paint is a trivial example it can illustrate more important “facts” that are provided us on a daily basis.

This example shows how research may be presented as “causing” something when it actually is only related. For instance, yellow and green in the home may be related to happiness in some way but that doesn't necessarily mean that painting your home those colors will make you (“cause” you to be) happy.

Only if the study was a randomized design could the researchers determine causality. But a randomized design is harder to implement. In this case, it might be getting a group of people to agree to allow the researchers to paint their homes and then they live in those homes for a period of time while the researchers measure their happiness levels. Pretty involved and expensive, right? Which is why much research is not randomized but is just showing a relationship: people who live in homes painted yellow and green are happier. Such research only requires a one-time questionnaire but doesn't show us what causes what. Does happiness cause us to be attracted to certain colors or do certain colors make us happy? Or is their some other explanation for the relationship?

Why is this important? Because when you understand the difference between causality and relatedness you can better evaluate information provided by the media. For example, the media might report that if you eat breakfast you are more likely to lose weight. However, that isn't what the research actually shows. The research indicates that people who have successfully lost weight tend to eat breakfast. It doesn't show that eating breakfast causes weight loss. It could be something that is associated (Brown et al., 2013). Maybe people who lose weight are hungrier in the morning. Maybe they exercise more and need the energy from a good breakfast. But if you believe the media reports and start eating breakfast as your main weight loss plan, you will be likely to gain weight instead.

Understanding research and causality can help you avoid these pitfalls. It also helps you to know when the information might be useful.

Brown, A.W., Bohan Brown, M.M. and Allison, D.B. (2013). Belief beyond the evidence: using the proposed effect of breakfast on obesity to show 2 practices that distort scientific evidence. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98, 1298-1308. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.113.064410.


Questions and Comments

All comments and questions require approval so you may not see your submission immediately.

Become a fan on Facebook! Follow on twitter for site updates! Follow on Google+ for site updates!