Scientists at the University College London (UCL) have developed a mathematical equation that can predict happiness.
The researchers claim that they have successfully predicted the happiness of more than 18,000 people across the world using the newly-developed mathematical equation. The scientists say that the equation can predict momentary happiness taking into account recent events like receiving a reward. The study reveals that people were happiest when they performed a risk-reward task better than anticipated.
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and examined the connection between reward and happiness, and neural procedures, which leads to feelings.
The researchers say that important events in an individual's life definitely affect happiness. However, the events cannot predict momentary happiness, which can be predicted by the latest equation.
Dr. Robb Rutledge, Senior Research Associate at the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Aging, who is also the lead author of the study, says that happiness of an individual depends on the expectations of an individual. The mathematical equation for happiness combines past influences of expectations with rewards to predict the level of happiness.
The researchers selected 26 participants who had finished a decision-making task, which led to financial profit or loss. After completing the task they were asked how happy they were. The researchers also measured the neural activity of the participants during the task using Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. With the help of the collected data scientists made a computational model, which suggests that self-reported pleasure was connected to latest rewards and expectations.
The scientists also experimented the model on over 18,000 participants via a game called "What makes me happy?" in a smartphone app called "The Great Brain Experiment." Researchers say that they were shocked to see that the mathematical equation was able to predict how happy participants will be while playing the game on their smartphone, although they just achieved points and did not get any real money.
"It's great that the data from the large and varied population using The Great Brain Experiment smartphone app shows that the same happiness equation applies to thousands people worldwide playing our game, as with our much smaller laboratory-based experiments which demonstrate the tremendous value of this approach for studying human well-being on a large scale," says Dr. Rutledge.
Previous studies suggest that people suffering from depression does not get happiness from things, which normal people get. The study can be used to understand how people with depression respond to reward. The researchers reveal that they are already using the mathematical equation for happiness to test people who are suffering from depression.