What do you think would make you happier? What do you think you would choose?

Daniel J. Benjamin*, Ori Heffetz, Miles S. Kimball, Alex Rees-Jones

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

177 Scopus citations

Abstract

Would people choose what they think would maximize their subjective well-being (SWB)? We present survey respondents with hypothetical scenarios and elicit both choice and predicted SWB rankings of two alternatives. While choice and predicted SWB rankings usually coincide in our data, we find systematic reversals. We identify factors - such as predicted sense of purpose, control over one's life, family happiness, and social status - that help explain hypothetical choice controlling for predicted SWB. We explore how our findings vary by SWB measure and by scenario. Our results have implications regarding the use of SWB survey questions as a proxy for utility.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2083-2110
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican Economic Review
Volume102
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes

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