Workshop on Well-Being IV

APRIL 22, 2008

Following on from the third workshop a month ago, yesterday saw the third in the series of “Workshops on Well-being” take place at the LSE. This time the presentations were given by Mat White of Plymouth University and Andrew Steptoe of UCL. Below are some (very) impressionistic notes.

Presentation by Mat White (+ Paul Dolan): Accounting for the richness of our daily activities

  1. Social psychologist: started out on risk perception, trust etc. (Fear of crime)

  2. General problems with life satisfaction data

  • lots of it deals with attributes which are beyond realm of govt intervention (e.g. race, gender)
  • Response/cross person comparisons issue: same externals result in different reported happiness levels across individuals (e.g. old, poor people are happiest in Dolan’s Welsh data, perhaps because of a “Don’t grumble” attitude). [ed: essence is the qualia problem: can we compare different people’s report of their internal states, both across people and across time. Or more pithily: is my ‘Good’ or ‘OK’ the same as your ‘Good’ or ‘OK’?]
  • Subjective well-being isn’t one thing but a composite: SWB = Feelings + Thoughts + Time
  1. Solutions
  • Experience Sampling Method: ask people during day
    • Problems: costly, only points in time, no duration etc
  • Day Reconstruction Method (DRM): solve duration issues
    • Can now base utility as integral of well-being function over time (ed: what utility always was but we just didn’t have the moment by data)
    • Find what one might expect re. what activities are nice
    • However no/v. weak correlation with e.g. income
      • But maybe because those payoffs are in the future
      • Or maybe because there are rewards in terms of thoughts, feelings about themselves etc (Eudamonia)
  1. This project: add thoughts (about activities) to DRM
  • 625 Germans
  • 5815 Episodes (3057 single activities)
  • Online panel
  • Have 12 adjectives they can use which break down into ‘pleasurable’ and ‘rewarding’
  1. Adding in Eudamonia makes a big difference!
  • Nice graph contrasting the DRM with ‘pleasure’ vs. ‘rewarding’ (at least partially inversely correlated).

  • Argue that we should sum both ‘eudaimonic’ and ‘hedonic’ evaluations over whole day.

  • Can now plot activities on x-y graph with x=hedonia, y=eudamonia (normalized about the mean values)

  • Get a slight -ve correlation

    • ed: this makes sense due to selection effects. Let w be total well-being and h hedonia score, e is eudamonia score. Suppose w is a linear combination of these underlying factors: w = h + k e. Now we would generally choose only to do activites with w > w0 (some outside option) => h+ke > w0 which gives the -ve correlation.
  • If reweight with duration [ed: equivalent to doing integral] then get a slight +ve correlation

    • ed: this reweighting by duration causes major changes to the form of the data. In particular all longer activities receive a positive shift while short ones receives a negative shift (explanation below). Whether this is what could/should do with the data was not entirely clear.

    Why does this shift occur. Results are plotted as ‘relative’ values (i.e. normalized about the mean). Thus if original value (x,y) it is plotted at (x-m1,y-m2) where m1 is the overall x-mean and m2 is overall y-mean. Adding duration means original values are now (dx,dy) and these are plotted relative to n1,n2 where n1,n2 are new duration weighted means.

    Letting dbar be the mean duration we could make the rough approximation that n1 = dbar m1, n2 = dbar y1. Then the new x position is: dx-n1 = dx - dbar m1 = d(x-m1) + (d-dbar)m1. Hence the new x-position will be a combination of a linear scaling out from the origin by d plus some offset of (d-dbar)m1. Since m1 is always positive this offset is positive (negative) as the duration of the activity is greater (less) than the mean duration of an activity.

  1. After discussion
  • pop-ups (thoughts either +ve or -ve) have a big impact
    • in a regression on day-satisfaction number of +ve and-ve popups explained more than hedonic or eudamonic variables (total value for whole day)
  • could be useful to look at something more than a simple integral [ed: e.g. use contextual judgment stuff]
  • Eudamonia: enters day satisfaction regressions negatively. This is what we would expect given association of ‘satisfaction’ with ‘pleasurable’ activites and slight negative correlation of ‘rewarding’ (eudamonic) activities with ‘pleasurable’ (hedonic) ones.
  • ed: could interpret eudamonic value as discounted future value coming from associated payoffs. I.e. if I work hard now this might not be pleasurable but it has high eudamonic content reflecting the future hedonic payoffs (nice garden, good holidays etc) of doing that work (NB: this is intentionally putting things very crudely).

Andrew Steptoe: DRM Analyses

  1. Primarily interested in ‘positive affect’ and health outcomes

  2. Questions:

  • how accurate is DRM
  • what does DRM tell us about activities and feelings of depressed people
  1. Data: Daytracker study
  • 200 healthy women in full-time work
  • 2 x 24hr starting @ 5pm (one work day and one non work-day)
  • International dimension
  • EMA and DRM
  1. Comparing EMA and DRM
  • Across aggregate data already see some differences (DRM shows noticeable rise towards end day while EMA does not really show this)
  • Per individual: similar differences but also fairly close correlation
  • Doing actual correlation looking at 4 different aspects (happy, tired, stress, anger) find medium correlations (0.2-0.7) which is reasonable but not great
    • also noticeable that timepoints are important: worst correlations are generally 12noon and 3pm
  1. How accurate is the DRM for estimating feelings (esp. in relation to depression)
  • Do depressed people: have diminished pleasure in all activities or is reduced exposure to good stuff?
  • Depressed people are less happy across most interactions (except with Grandchildren) though effect (of depression) does vary and is strongest for being Alone or with your Partner
    • Looking at time: depressed people seem to spend more time (compared to non-depressed) doing things they don’t like
  • Similarly, looking across activities, depressed people are less happy doing most stuff
    • Again looking at time, seem to find depressed people spending more time on things that they particularly dislike (relative to others)
  • [ed: Not sure what this is telling us. After all the activities depressed people spend more time on may still be better than other options even if those options do not get as large a negative ‘hit’ from being depressed – e.g. house-work may not be much worse when depressed than non-depressed but it still might be worse than everything else]