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What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?

Publication Abstract

Benjamin, Daniel J., Miles Kimball, O. Heffetz, and A. Rees-Jones. 2012. "What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?" American Economic Review, 102(5): 2083-2110.

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.

DOI:10.1257/aer.102.5.2083 (Full Text)

PMCID: PMC3532045. (Pub Med Central)

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