Micro Seminars EUR

Hannes Schwandt (University of Zuerich, Switzerland)
Friday, 19 May 2017

Abstract: In a new survey we directly elicit if respondents seek to maximize their subjective well-being (SWB), based on the entirety of the respondents’ actual life choices. Specifically, after a standard SWB question, we ask if they can think of any feasible changes in their lives that would improve their SWB score. If the SWB score is just one argument among others in the respondents’ goals in life, they should easily find ways to improve it, at the expense of other dimensions they care about. Our results suggest that close to 90% of the respondents actually seek to maximize their SWB. Among the other goals that non-maximizing people pursue and for which they are willing to sacrifice some of their SWB, the most frequent are about their relatives and about their future self. A “paradox of happiness” appears: the maximizers have less SWB than those who sacrifice some of their SWB for other goals.