Equation to predict happiness

Equation to predict happiness
5 August 2014

The model was then tested on 18,420 participants in the game ‘What makes me happy?’ in a smartphone app developed at UCL called ‘The Great Brain Experiment’ (www.thegreatbrainexperiment.com).
Scientists were surprised to find that the same equation could be used to predict how happy subjects would be while they played the smartphone game, even though subjects could win only points and not money.

how important expectations are in determining happiness. In real-world situations, the rewards associated with life decisions such as starting a new job or getting married are often not realized for a long time, and our results suggest expectations related to these decisions, good and bad, have a big effect on happiness.

It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower.
We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.
However, expectations also affect happiness even before we learn the outcome of a decision.
If you have plans to meet a friend at your favorite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan.

original paper:
A computational and neural model of momentary subjective well-being
PNAS August 19, 2014   vol. 111  no. 33  12252-12257
Robb B. Rutledgea,Nikolina Skandalia, Peter Dayanc, and Raymond J. Dolan
A common question in the social science of well-being asks, “How happy do you feel on a scale of 0 to 10?” Responses are often related to life circumstances, including wealth. By asking people about their feelings as they go about their lives, ongoing happiness and life events have been linked, but the neural mechanisms underlying this relationship are unknown. To investigate it, we presented subjects with a decision-making task involving monetary gains and losses and repeatedly asked them to report their momentary happiness. We built a computational model in which happiness reports were construed as an emotional reactivity to recent rewards and expectations. Using functional MRI, we demonstrated that neural signals during task events account for changes in happiness.


Beyond the hedonic treadmill model (2006)

Beyond the hedonic treadmill: revising the adaptation theory of well-being.
Am Psychol. 2006 May-Jun;61(4):305-14.
Diener E, et al.

According to the hedonic treadmill model, good and bad events temporarily affect happiness, but people quickly adapt back to hedonic neutrality.
The theory, which has gained widespread acceptance in recent years, implies that individual and societal efforts to increase happiness are doomed to failure.
The recent empirical work outlined here indicates that 5 important revisions to the treadmill model are needed.
First, individuals’ set points are not hedonically neutral.
Second, people have different set points, which are partly dependent on their temperaments.
Third, a single person may have multiple happiness set points: Different components of well-being such as pleasant emotions, unpleasant emotions, and life satisfaction can move in different directions.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, well-being set points can change under some conditions.
Finally, individuals differ in their adaptation to events, with some individuals changing their set point and others not changing in reaction to some external event.
These revisions offer hope for psychologists and policy-makers who aim to decrease human misery and increase happiness.

Comment in:
On the importance of distinguishing hedonia and eudaimonia when contemplating the hedonic treadmill. [Am Psychol. 2007]

Comment on Diener, Lucas, and Scollon (2006). “Beyond the hedonic treadmill: revising the adaptation theory of well-being”. [Am Psychol. 2007]

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
by Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein
Penguin Books; Revised & Expanded edition (February 24, 2009)

An Economist Best Book of the Year

“For fans of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, a revelatory new look at how we make decisions” Amazon.com

Nudge is about choices-how we make them and how we can make better ones.
Authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make- including ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources, and other bad decisions.
Citing decades of cutting-edge behavioral science research, they demonstrate that sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people towards the best decisions without restricting their freedom of choice.
Straightforward, informative, and entertaining, this is a must-read for anyone with interest in our individual and collective well-being.

listed in:

Episode 803: Nudge, Nudge, Nobel
November 1, 2017

The Ethics of Nudging
TORCH | The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities
March 6, 2016

Renting vs. Buying a Home: The 5% Rule