Happiness: why learning, not rewards, may be the key – new research - Deepstash

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Seeking Happiness

Seeking Happiness

  • The pursuit to happiness has always been a never ending journey. It started even before the French philosophers came into the picture.
  • From Aristotle to Bentham, they all argued that our subjective well-being is important. However, it has been proven that increasing societal happiness is not a walk in the park.
  • The main driver of happiness is how the reward matches with our expectations, not the reward itself.

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Reward Prediction Error

When we receive a reward for a job we've done, we always equate a certain amount of expectations and feelings of excitement towards the reward.

Reward prediction errors play a major role in learning because it helps us understand people's motivations behind certain behaviors and their perspectives or beliefs about the world.

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The Results of the Reward Prediction Error Experiment

The happiness of the subjects did not depend on how large the rewards were. Instead, the momentary happiness depended on the outcomes of their expectations.

The process of learning how the experimented game worked made people feel good rather than the reward they won.

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The Benefits of Learning

  • Many people seek to learn as the opportunity arises even if the reward of the game isn't of any material value, that is why many people still enjoy playing sudoku amongst other things.
  • The motivation to join in an intrinsically rewarding activity - like solving problems - has been shown to decrease when a payment is introduced.
  • Rewards in the real world often come in uncertain amounts. However, the good news is that regardless of what may be, learning has the potential to boost happiness.

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