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Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness

  • Luis Rayo
  • Gary S. Becker

We model happiness as a measurement tool used to rank alternative actions. Evolution favors a happiness function that measures the individual’s success in relative terms. The optimal function is based on a time-varying reference point—or performance benchmark—that is updated over time in a statistically optimal way in order to match the individual’s potential. Habits and peer comparisons arise as special cases of such an updating process. This updating also results in a volatile level of happiness that continuously reverts to its long-term mean. Throughout, we draw a parallel with a problem of optimal incentives, which allows us to apply statistical insights from agency theory to the study of happiness.

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File URL: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/resolve?id=doi:10.1086/516737
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 115 (2007)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 302-337

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:v:115:y:2007:p:302-337
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JPE/

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