The Research Lab in Your Pocket @timeshighered

When George MacKerron set out to investigate how people’s happiness is affected by their environment, he hit upon the idea of using mobile phones. What if an application could be developed to ask study participants – at regular intervals – how they were feeling, where they were and who they were with?

The research project Mappiness does just that via an app that beeps phone owners once or more a day to enquire about their state of mind while simultaneously taking a noise measurement and tracking the participant’s location with global positioning system technology. Richard Layard, the British economist and Labour peer known for his research on well-being, has described the project as “a revolutionary research idea”, but for MacKerron, the concept was obvious.

“The technology was there: it seemed a no-brainer,” says the PhD researcher at the London School of Economics.

What took MacKerron by surprise was the scale of the response. At the start of the project, he and his supervisor Susana Mourato had a “crazy pipe dream” that it might be possible to get as many as 3,000 people to volunteer to participate in the project. Instead, to date nearly 43,000 people have experienced “the warm glow of helping increase the sum of human knowledge”, in the words of the Mappiness website.

Read full story (to find out more about other possible apps). I used to use the Mappiness app, but turned all the reminders off, as after about 2 months I kept not being able to respond at the time sent…

See more about ‘Happiness’/Mappiness (not the same project!):