Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 729–744 | Cite as

The AB Identification Survey: Identifying Absolute versus Relative Determinants of Happiness

  • Adelle X. YangEmail author
  • Christopher K. Hsee
  • Xingshan Zheng
Research Paper


This article introduces a simple survey method to distinguish between two types of variables that affect happiness—type A, which exerts an absolute effect on happiness, and type B, which affects happiness only through social context. The authors validate the method by comparing its findings with the findings of a theoretically superior but less practical experimental method, and use the method to identify the AB nature of a variety of naturally-occurring variables among both college students and people with work experience. We conclude by discussing the limitation of this method as well as its potential to inform policymakers about where to invest resources in order to improve people’s happiness over time.


Decision making Happiness Choice Affect Measurement 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adelle X. Yang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher K. Hsee
    • 1
  • Xingshan Zheng
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Chicago Booth School of BusinessChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Shanghai Jiaotong UniversityShanghaiChina

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