We always love to learn new things about happiness.
the authors ran two experiments. In the first, 297 people on the Boston streets were given lottery tickets. They were asked to scratch off one side and received cash in the amount printed underneath-$1, $3, $5, or $7. Then they scratched off the other side, revealing either a higher or lower amount. Afterwards, they completed questionnaires rating their happiness, disappointment, or regret.
The “winners” (who got the bigger of two amounts) were, unsurprisingly, happier than the losers — but also equally happy with any prize. The losers’ happiness, by contrast, increased with the prize amounts.
That’s an interesting revelation – people’s brains seem to work their way to happiness one way or another.
In four trials, 31 participants were asked to memorize either a two- or an eight-digit number and choose one of two boxes with prize amounts ($3 or $5) inside, which were displayed on a screen. At the end, they were told, they’d receive the amount in one of their chosen boxes, randomly selected. Then both boxes opened. Unknown to the participants, the design made them all losers — they’d always pick the lesser amount. The combinations of memory difficulty — “cognitive load” — and cash received ($3 or $5) varied. In each trial, participants rated their feelings.
Again, larger prizes made these losers happier — but only when they had enough brainpower to think about it. Under higher cognitive load, they were glad to get either amount.
Source: Association for Psychological Science (2011, April 5). Happiness, comparatively speaking: How we think about life’s rewards. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 27, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110405161911.htm