The happiness of over 18,000 people worldwide has been predicted by an equation developed by researchers at UCL, with results showing that moment-to-moment happiness reflects not just how well things are going, but whether things are going better.

The happiness of over 18,000 people worldwide has been predicted by a mathematical equation developed by researchers at UCL, with results showing that moment-to-moment happiness reflects not just how well things are going, but whether things are going better than expected.

The new equation accurately predicts exactly how happy people will say they are from moment to moment based on recent events, such as the rewards they receive and the expectations they have during a decision-making task. Scientists found that overall wealth accumulated during the experiment was not a good predictor of happiness. Instead, moment-to-moment happiness depended on the recent history of rewards and expectations. These expectations depended, for example, on whether the available options could lead to good or bad outcomes.

As part of the Great Brain Experiment smartphone app, users are periodically asked how happy they feel. Credit: Robb Rutledge, UCL

 

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