The Science of Happiness
and Well Being?
By Kevin Hogan
The UK's "Moment"
And what is the context of this particular moment?
The Moment in the UK for many, is basking in the euphoria
of the Royal Wedding. It generates a very non-random
"moment" in time. I'm watching a "recap" on TV as I didn't get
to see it live. It's truly remarkable how many thousands of people
were captivated by this in London. Hard to see it as anything
but a very good day. I saw what I perceived to be a lot of
Clearly the Identity of a lot of people in the U.K. is wrapped up
in the Royal Family.
And that must have been
a coincidence. Certainly the timing for the survey must have
been planned long before they knew a Prince was going to
get his Princess for the first time in three decades in England.
Ideally, you would simply reschedule the survey for some other
Imagine that this survey was going out at a different time when
the UK wouldn't be wound up in the euphoria
of this extended moment as they complete their four question survey.
Imagine that it was just another Friday....oops...that
would be a contrast to Mondays and research frightfully shows
that, for example, a lot more people die on Mondays than
Fridays. More people are sick on Mondays (or at least that's
what they report....)
So the day of the week a "happiness and well-being" survey is
completed will obviously bias the results.
Of course, so does calling it a "Happiness and Well Being" Survey.
Keypoint: Asking self report questions is directly tainted by where in the
weekly cycle mood related factors take place in.
But imagine that the surveys were all done on random
days over the course of a random series of months.
If you've ever been to the UK, you full well know the mood
of the people is different in Winter than it is in Spring.
Now, in our (yours and mine) world of a survey that has fewer contextual
factors (The Moment, the time of year, the weekly cycle)
that will taint the value of the results...there are still more problems.
Let me ask YOU a question:
How dissatisfied are you with your life nowadays?
Go ahead and write the answer down on a piece of paper.
1 to 5 scale. 5 is very dissatisfied, 4 somewhat dissatisfied, 3 sometimes
dissatisfied, 2 mostly not dissatisfied, 1, not dissatisfied at all.
Now wait...Is there someone in the room with you?
You will answer the question differently if there is another
person present. AND you will answer the question even more
differently if they can look over your shoulder and see what
you are doing. The more people around, the more satisfied
you will respond.
The more people observing you score yourself, the more satisfied
you will report...unless you are at a political rally or at the State
Capitol where you are supposed to be dissatisfied.
(Is this starting to make sense now?)
But shoot, we've known this for awhile now. We already know, for
example, that women do better at math and physics when in
a room with all women than a mixed group of men and women?
Real research has shown that Blacks do better in academia when
they are not reminded that they are Black.
Keypoint: The environment, the context and the subtle cues around you
dramatically change results.
So let's get to the fun....let's just go with "the moment."
Let's look at how you answered the first question...
What was your answer to my question? ...
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