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Princeton Researchers Use Mobile Phones to Measure Happiness


A happiness meter.

A study exploring the connection between environment and happiness used mobile phones to capture relevant information.

Credit: Paul Frank Industries LLC

Mobile phones can provide an efficient way to capture information that is otherwise difficult to record, according to researchers at Princeton University. The researchers used mobile phones for a study exploring the connection between environment and happiness.

Some 270 volunteers in 13 countries downloaded the study's Android app, which the team designed to periodically ask "how happy are you?" The open source app also recorded the participant's location at various intervals based on either global positioning system satellites or cellular tower signals.

The researchers say the app was designed to record feelings as they happen, which they say should be more accurate than those written down after the fact. The approach could help overcome the limitations of conducting studies in people's homes.

"If we want to get more precise findings of contextual measurements, we need to use techniques like this," says Princeton graduate student John Palmer. He notes that the researchers' concentration at this stage was not on generalizable conclusions about the connection between environment and happiness, but rather on learning more about the mobile phone's capabilities for data collection. "I'd be hesitant to try to extend our substantive findings beyond those people who volunteered," Palmer says.

From Princeton Journal Watch
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