Friday, November 07, 2008

Strange Conclusion

Today, BPS Research Digest discusses a finding that people's happiness is more readily increased by small, repeated events like going to the gym than by large, one-time events like winning the lottery. I enjoyed the article, but it did end on an odd note:
So what are the policy implications for this new research. The researchers said single-shot events such as a tax cut will probably have little impact on people's happiness. By contrast, "policies that lead to small but repeated gains are likely to succeed."
Talk about shoehorning a study into liberal talking points! Unless we're talking about a tax rebate where the government sends you a big (or, generally, not so big) check, a tax cut is not a large, single-shot event. I mean, the news of a tax cut having been passed might be a single event, but actually keeping more money from each paycheck seems to be an exact example of a "small but repeated gain." No?

1 comment:

Sally said...

So you would think, but my sense (vague, not something I can point to any particular reason for believing) is that other research has found that getting e.g. a raise at work functions like a single-shot event and shows that hedonic treadmill effect, even though you are getting more (but the same more) every paycheck.

I haven't read the specific journal article they are talking about to have a feel for how they are defining the "small and frequent" boost. But I can see an argument for the fact that the tax cut (or pay raise or whatever) quickly becomes non-salient. Other things known to boost one's happiness level, like sex, are a little harder not to notice happening to you. ;)