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Ed Diener

Professer Ed Diener of the University of Illinois gathers five or six reports a day from people regarding their current happiness. He is compiling a standard of global happiness similar to gross national happiness studies by the government of Nepal. The World Value Survey is another study of this sort.

He collects the reports via Palm Pilots he distributes to survey participants for two week periods. As part of each response he asks if subjects are at work or play, with family or friends. This is an attempt to determine what other factors matter in what he calls happiness set points: a fixed level of happiness each person seems to have innate.

Some unsurprising results:
  • people can change their happiness set points by a deliberate discipline - Laughter Clubs being one such example
  • "right now as a group, the unhappiest people are in extremely poor countries", notably those who cannot eat every day
  • culture matters: people tend to be as happy as others around them, and to reflect serious political or social turmoil in their personal moment-to-moment happiness

Some of his surprising results are:
  • materialism is a minus - people who list material goods as a positive goal are simply not as happy as others
  • Hispanic culture emphasizes happiness collectively and this seems to pay off - but individual Hispanics can feel worse off if they are engaged in some kind of denial of very basic unhappiness
  • the so-called "negative emotions" that displease others play a major role in discovery of what is making us basically happy - a low average level of such emotions is very strongly correlated to the willingness to allow them to be experienced when they happen for a reason - this will not of course surprise any known trolls