Scientists Reveal Equation for Happiness
Literally: They developed a mathematical formula to predict it
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Aug 9, 2014 1:50 PM CDT
A woman flashes a smile during an event called "Return Happiness to Thai People" in Bangkok in June.   (AP Photo/Wason Wanichakorn)

(Newser) – How happy will you be at a given point in time? Scientists have come up with an equation to answer the question, or as they call it in the journal PNAS, "a computational and neural model of momentary subjective well-being." Mathematicians can marvel at the actual formula here. Laymen can simply remember this takeaway: Lower expectations can bring you more happiness, Today reports. In a series of tests on subjects, the researchers found that people are happiest when things turn out better than expected, happier even than they would be had expectations been high in the first place.

But it's not just about your expectations at any given moment, a researcher from University College London tells the BBC. "All of the recent expectations and rewards combine to determine your current state of happiness." And all these factors get crunched in the fancy formula. "We can look at past decisions and outcomes and predict exactly how happy you will say you are at any point in time," says the researcher. The team proved the point by accurately predicting happiness levels of 18,000 users of a smartphone app called "The Great Brain Experiment." Researchers hope the findings can boost our understanding of mood disorders. (If all that's too complicated, try the pope's tips for happiness.)

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Showing 3 of 53 comments
gettingwell
Feb 15, 2015 10:16 AM CST
This study is another example of researchers inappropriately ignoring the feeling and lower brains when allegedly researching emotions. Only thinking brain areas were measured and considered in the researchers’ efforts to determine the subjects’ happiness. Efforts to determine emotions by thinking brain measurements seldom reveal what people actually feel. What’s measured is a construct of people’s thinking brains – a proxy for their emotions – that may not have anything to do with what people actually feel at the time. It may be more appropriate to characterize the subjects’ self-reports of happiness in terms such as “this is what I think I should tell the researchers about what I think I should feel.” What we think we should feel may not be what we actually feel. Feeling brain measurements need to be taken and considered when subjects in an experiment self-report degrees of happiness if the researchers intend to draw conclusions about feelings of happiness. “..we show that emotional reactivity in the form of momentary happiness in response to outcomes of a probabilistic reward task is explained not by current task earnings, but by the combined influence of recent reward expectations and prediction errors arising from those expectations.” It is a thinking brain exercise of expectations and prediction errors to find that “..moment-to-moment happiness reflects not just how well things are going, but whether things are going better than expected..” http://surfaceyourrealself.com/2015/02/15/problematic-research-on-human-happiness-surfaceyourrealself/
TheGunts
Aug 14, 2014 11:37 AM CDT
Sun. morn. Three Stooges + thumb-thick fatty = :-) Or, at least it used to as far as I can remember.
Imhotep
Aug 11, 2014 9:12 AM CDT
If your too dumb to come to the realization early in your life that once you have what you thought would bring you happiness and for some unexplainable reason the happiness wanes and you can't figure it out , then there's no hope in you ever finding true happiness. You'll continue to acquire other things and for a moment you'll be happy and soon you'll be back looking for something else. The sellers of goods are counting on it. Always in search of that thing that will fill the happiness void. Happiness comes from within no matter what your social status. Why this has to be explained to adults is beyond me. The French have a saying for keeping your expectations realistic , " don't fart higher than your ass."