A team of psychologists working for University College London have laid claim to unearthing the elusive key to happiness – simply not expecting it.
Intriguingly the group determined that happiness is not dependant on how well things go but rather on the extent of the gap between expectation and reality.
With expectations suitably depressed researchers concluded that participants were more likely to be pleasantly surprised when a given situation actually turned out to be less bad than feared, giving individuals a greater feel good factor than those expecting happiness from the off.
Their findings arose from a study of 26 volunteers instructed to have a flutter on a gambling game in which players could stick with receiving a modest 40p each game or gamble on the chance of receiving a bigger 90p payout.
Neural measurements taken by an MRI scanner in the midst of these activities elicited that the raw accumulation of pennies was not a route to happiness in and of itself but the expectation of a future windfall is.
These predictions were subsequently put to the test in the field courtesy of 18,420 participants in a custom UCL smartphone app, The Great brain Experiment, which switched money for points.