Psychological research has gone mobile, hand-held, and high tech. Researchers are finding that they can collect massive amounts of data for their studies by extending their data collection to a central part of millions of people’s lives: the smartphone . The smartphone app “Mappiness” is an example of such a research project. “Mappiness” is a data collection tool for a study about subjective levels of happiness by George McKernon, a researcher at the London School of Economics, that first took off in August, 2010.
“Mappiness” takes advantage of the fact that the iPhone is portable and can be found with the same individual in different settings: The researchers are interested in how people’s happiness is affected by their immediate environment, taking into consideration the effects of noise, air pollution, green spaces, social contact, activities, and various other ever-changing environmental factors. The app requires you to periodically indicate your self-reported levels of happiness, relaxedness, and alertness, and then answer several questions about your immediate environment. It also briefly quantifies the level of noise in your surroundings and pinpoints your location using GPS . Every time you use this app, your answers are saved and automatically formatted into graphs. You can view these graphs at any time to see how your own level of happiness changes based on your surroundings.
Using the data that users submit, Mappiness uses a “hedonimeter” (pictured above) to represent the real-time level of happiness compared to the overall average level of happiness of all of its users in a given location. The idea behind measuring real-time happiness with the hedonimeter is to demonstrate the paradoxical consistency of human happiness: we all have our ups and downs, but as extreme as they feel to us, we still tend to hover around the average as time goes on.
Overall, Mappiness promotes self-awareness, technological advancement, and the expansion of psychological research. If you’re interested in an app that maps your happiness, you can download “Mappiness” at no cost.