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.
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.