Happiness happens, not because things are going well, but because they’re going better than expected.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, investigated the relationship between happiness and reward, and the neural processes that lead to feelings that are central to our conscious experience, such as happiness. Before now, it was known that life events affect an individual’s happiness but not exactly how happy people will be from moment to moment as they make decisions and receive outcomes resulting from those decisions, something the new equation can predict.
Scientists believe that quantifying subjective states mathematically could help doctors better understand mood disorders, by seeing how self-reported feelings fluctuate in response to events like small wins and losses in a smartphone game. A better understanding of how mood is determined by life events and circumstances, and how that differs in people suffering from mood disorders, will hopefully lead to more effective treatments.