Many sources on the internet (example) repeat this list of findings purportedly from a Duke University study on what characteristics contribute to one's "peace of mind":

  1. The absence of suspicion and resentment. Nursing a grudge was a major factor in unhappiness.
  2. Not living in the past. An unwholesome preoccupation with old mistakes and failures leads to depression.
  3. Not wasting time and energy fighting conditions you cannot change. Cooperate with life, instead of trying to run away from it.
  4. Force yourself to stay involved with the living world. Resist the temptation to withdraw and become reclusive during periods of emotional stress.
  5. Refuse to indulge in self-pity when life hands you a raw deal. Accept the fact that nobody gets through life without some sorrow and misfortune.
  6. Cultivate the old-fashioned virtues—love, humor, compassion and loyalty
  7. Do not expect too much of yourself. When there is too wide a gap between self-expectation and your ability to meet the goals you have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.
  8. Find something bigger than yourself to believe in. Self-centered egotistical people score lowest in any test for measuring happiness.

I first found the list in Randy Alcorn's book Happiness. Alcorn cites Reinventing American Education by Rudy Magnan as the source, which in turn cites the following:

"Peace of Mind, Factors Contributing to Emotional and Emotional [sic] Stability," Duke University, 1980.

And that seems to be a dead end. Does this study exist? If so, where can it be found?

  • 3
    This appears to have been invented out of full cloth on 1 Feb 2001. The example cited in the question may well have been the source; google says that this page was written on that date. There are a number of other references that date to that same date, so they too are candidates. There are no references prior to that date. Even worse, scholar.google.com cannot find anything that comes even close to supporting those platitudes. Sep 13, 2016 at 23:15
  • @David In my experience, Google's annotations of what date a webpage is from aren't that reliable. However, I think an answer mentioning the various Google Scholar searches you tried could be useful. Sep 15, 2016 at 16:11

1 Answer 1


Although I cannot find a legitimate source for that 8-point plan, there are a couple of key points in the information you have shared:

  1. The citation that you mentioned above is not a professional/valid citation.
  2. The bibliography of that book (which should have expanded information) just says:

    Duke University, Sociological Study, "Peace of Mind"

Any citation should list a study an provide information of where it was published or presented at a conference. As the citation is in the book, this "study" might have been anything. If it existed, it could have been a class project. It could have been a homework assignment for all we know.

Taking a look at some of his other citations does not lend confidence to thinking that he is particularly thorough, since:

  • His bibliographic style is inconsistent (i.e. he cites New York Times articles in a couple of different ways).
  • Spot-checking other citations is not particularly encouraging. For example, I cannot find the article or journal called "Cultural Crisis" that Mortimer Feinberg supposedly wrote. If it exists, it's quite obscure. Other words refer to existing journals, but I cannot find a reference to the article in databases or (and this is key) no one else seems to cite them. I could be wrong on those, but it is a pattern with his citations.
  • He uses the New York Times a LOT! Generally, a convincing argument will use a range.

But maybe I'm being judgmental and I just need to buy his book to learn how the raise my "operating intelligence"?

  • Doesn't the fact that NYT is used as a source of scientific citations at all disqualify this right off the bat? I can see it being used as citations for a Wikipedia article, but not for science.
    – user5341
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:19
  • 1
    It seems a lot of what he uses it for is about the state of education in the book as a whole, and it would be valid as reference points, but you're right in that it doesn't work for science and a NYT article, no matter what it is, will not have the validity of a published story.
    – rougon
    Sep 14, 2016 at 15:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .