Daniel Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, has a blog in which he has been posting his newspaper and magazine articles. What is really nice about the blog is that he provides references to the research he cites in those articles. His posts are short and sweet, and they are on a topic that I have been keen on learning more about: Happiness.
Studies reveal that most married couples start out happy and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives, becoming especially disconsolate when their children are in diapers and in adolescence, and returning to their initial levels of happiness only after their children have had the decency to grow up and go away. When the popular press invented a malady called "empty-nest syndrome," it failed to mention that its primary symptom is a marked increase in smiling.
Gilbert goes on to suggest ways of explaining this rather counter-intuitive (to me, at least) finding. This one -- his second explanation -- sounds the most plausible:
if the Red Sox and the Yankees were scoreless until Manny Ramirez hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth, you can be sure that Boston fans would remember it as the best game of the season. Memories are dominated by their most powerful—and not their most typical—instances. Just as a glorious game-winning homer can erase our memory of 8 1/2 dull innings, the sublime moment when our 3-year-old looks up from the mess she is making with her mashed potatoes and says, "I wub you, Daddy," can erase eight hours of no, not yet, not now and stop asking. Children may not make us happy very often, but when they do, that happiness is both transcendent and amnesic.
You could also replace the baseball analogy with one to the current World Cup; while most of the games have been rather lacklustre (if not downright boring), we are likely to remember (probably fondly) this year's edition just because of THE GOAL.