White Americans expect to be happy, so day-to-day positive events have less effect on their overall mood than such events have on Asians and Asian Americans, found a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, (Vol. 93, No. 4, pages 685-698).

Negative events, however, are a different story.

"If in general you think life is great and expect good things to happen, you are surprised when something negative happens and are more affected by it than others," says lead investigator Shigehiro Oishi, PhD, of the University of Virginia.

Oishi and his team had 356 students--of whom 109 were white--from Asian and American universities complete a short survey on overall life satisfaction. The researchers then asked the participants to respond to a daily Web survey for 21 days. The survey asked how their day was and how happy they felt, and asked respondents to identify positive and negative events that occurred during the day.

For white Americans, it took two positive events--such as receiving a gift or getting a compliment--to offset a single negative one. In contrast, Asians and Asian Americans only needed around one positive event to buoy them after a negative event. "The happier you get, the more powerful negative events become," says Oishi. "The weight of it becomes increasingly heavier--like gravity."

--L. Meyers