Method of Happiness Scale Interval Study

This study is about survey questions on happiness using verbal response options. Since the main aim is to improve comparison of happiness across nations, we restrict yourself to such questions as those that have been applied in studies of general populations in nations. These survey questions are specified on this list.

Native speakers consider questions separately and estimate the degree of happiness denoted by the different response options provided in their language. This is done on a bar scale, ranging from 10 to 0. The native speaker’s  task is to divide the scale into sections that correspond with the meaning denoted by the words used to qualify happiness. The native speakers do this for each of the response options of several questions.

The assessments are  made on a computer screen, which displays the survey question and a vertical bar scale. Next to this will be the verbal response options, such as ‘very happy’ or ‘not happy’. On the vertical bar there are horizontal lines that can be moved by the cursor to section the bar. The user can move these lines up and down and thereby divide the into sections of different size. The response options next to the line also move. The native speakers must shift the boundaries until they feel that the segments on the bar correspond with the meaning of the words used for the response options. This tool is named a ‘Scale Interval Recorder’ and is available on request. For a demonstration click here.

The judges
The assessments are made by university students. We opted for university students rather than average citizens, because the task requires a more than average verbal intelligence. Volunteers are recruited though professors who participate in the study. Professors explain the study to the students in class and then hand out a flyer with further details and a log-on code. Interested students then do the assessments on a PC with Internet connection. This task is expected to take about 10 minutes. We aim at a precision of 0,1 and a 0 to 10 scale in a 95% confidence interval, which will require about 200 student-judges to participate per language.

The responses are automatically recorded and transformed to an MsExcell file. Using this file we compute the average value allotted to each response option on a scale of 0 to 10. We then use these scores to recalculate the means and standard deviations from distributional findings on happiness in nations already available in the collection ‘Happiness in nations’ of this database.

The response options with three response options were rated as follows in the Dutch language: 8,5 for ‘very happy’, 5.7 for ‘fairly happy’ and 2,5 for ‘not too happy’ (study dutch1). When used in a survey in The Netherlands in 1985 the frequency of responses to these options was respectively 71%, 27% and 2% . The values obtained were then used to compute a weighted average from these frequencies: 0,71 x 8,5 + 0,27 x 5,7 + 0,02 x 2,5 = 7,6

The ratings for the same response options in the English language were slightly different, 8,2 for ‘very happy and 2,6 for ‘not too happy (study english1). Given the same distribution of responses that would yield a slightly lower average: 0,71 x 8,2 + 0,27 x 5,7 + 0,02 x 2,6 = 7,4

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