LSE researchers launch mobile app to ‘map’ happiness

Posted on 5 Oct 2010 in

George MacKerron and Susana Mourato have designed and launched an iPhone application called ‘Mappiness‘ that maps people’s happiness across the UK, to better understand how their feelings are affected by immediate features of the current environment, such as pollution, weather conditions, noise, trees and green spaces.

The app asks participants to report how they are feeling every day, alongside some basic control questions, and uses satellite positioning (GPS) to pinpoint their location. This will be linked to environmental quality variables, using a spatial database (GIS). National happiness levels are updated in real time on the project website.

In return for taking part, participants receive personalised charts that analyse their wellbeing: when, where and with whom they are happiest.

An astonishing 20,000 people have now signed up to the app, providing over 800,000 responses to date. The app has also received some great media coverage, including various UK newspapers, local radio and an item on prime-time CNN.

MacKerron and Mourato are from the Geography and Environment department at LSE. MacKerron is based here at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and Mourato is an associate staff member of the Institute.

MacKerron said: ‘Tracking happiness through time alone is an idea with history: in the 19th century economists imagined a ‘hedonimeter’, a perfect happiness gauge, and psychologists have more recently run small-scale ‘experience sampling’ studies to see how mood varies with activity, time of day, and so on.

‘What’s exciting here is the addition of the spatial dimension. By tracking across space as well as time, and by making novel use of a technology that millions of people already carry with them, we hope to find better answers to questions about the impacts of natural beauty, environmental problems – maybe even aspects of climate – on individual and national wellbeing.’

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