Two thoughts on this. First, there is a lot of interest in this topic these days. I've 
been at two conferences in the last 6 months and attended two seminars here at 
Brookings on this issue. The National Institute on Ageing is considering funding (may 
already have done it) a major project to develop and validate happiness measures. 
Second, the sorts of pencil and paper retrospective questions that Oswald and others 
have used give very different results from two other methods of measuring happiness 
that seem to be less subject to subjective bias. 
     The first is moment based sampling in which people are given some sort of device 
that beeps at random points at which point they are supposed tow note how good or bad 
they are feeling at that instant. An interesting finding using this approach is that 
while people asked retrospectively how happy they were on each day of the week will 
nearly always say they were happiest on the weekend and least happy on Monday, when 
you look at what they record at the time it turns out they are _most_ happy on Monday 
and the least happy on the weekend. The study authors conclude that most people really 
like their work and don't like doing house work or being around family members. 
     The second method that is being offered as an alternative to questionnaires is 
the study of particular patterns of brain activity that correlate very highly with 
self reported instantaneous measures of happiness. Interesting finding here is that 
the happiest people in the world (or at least those with the most profoundly 
asymmetric frontal lobe activity levels (the pattern that correlates with reported 
happiness if I remember correctly)) are Tibetan Monks. 
     An interesting research question is whether the brain activity based measures 
will give the same result as questionnaires that increasing income isn't correlated 
with happiness. One hypothesis is that that result is an artifact of everyone defining 
their happiness relative to those around them rather than on any absolute scale.

-- Bill Dickens

William T. Dickens
The Brookings Institution
1775 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 797-6113
FAX:     (202) 797-6181
AOL IM: wtdickens

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