Child Indicators Research

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 21–40 | Cite as

Memory-Experience Gap in Early Adolescents’ Happiness Reports

  • Maja Tadić
  • Huub Braam
  • Katja Van Vliet
  • Ruut Veenhoven


Studies among adult populations show that estimates of how happy one has felt in the past tend to be more positive than average happiness as assessed using time sampling techniques. This ‘memory-experience gap’ is attributed to cognitive biases, among which fading affect bias. In this paper we report a study among 352 pupils of a secondary school in the Netherlands. These youngsters reported subsequently: 1) how happy they had felt yesterday, 2) how happy they had felt during the last month, 3) what they had done the previous day and 4) how they had felt during each of these activities. Unlike earlier studies, the average rating of happiness in the last month appeared to be lower than average happiness of the previous day. In accordance with earlier research, the global rating of happiness during the previous day was higher than the average of reported affect during separate activities during that day. A further multilevel analysis suggest that in estimating how they have felt on the whole yesterday, youngsters overestimated short pleasant episodes and underestimated unpleasant episodes, especially when such episodes lasted long.


Happiness measurement Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) Adolescents Retrospection 



The data reported in this paper are from a larger project “Should Happiness be taught at school? The effect of “Lessons in Happiness” on measures of well-being and academic performance for pupils aged thirteen at Dutch secondary schools” conducted by Jacqueline Boerefijn (2010). Information is available at


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maja Tadić
    • 1
  • Huub Braam
    • 2
  • Katja Van Vliet
    • 2
  • Ruut Veenhoven
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Social Sciences Ivo PilarZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Verwey-Jonker InstituteUtrechtNetherlands
  3. 3.Erasmus UniversityRotterdamNetherlands

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