Pets don’t make humans immediately happy the way other people do

Hold on to what makes you smile.
Hold on to what makes you smile.
Image: Reuters/Fabian Bimmer
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As much as we love our doggos and feline friends, the thing that seems to actually make us happiest is the company of other people.

These data were collected over three months by researchers at the University of Tokyo and the Recruit Institute of Technology in California. They used a mechanical turk system to gather the data, paying anonymous participants a minimal fee to write what made them happiest in the past 24 hours, and what made them happiest in the past three months.

This isn’t a perfect study. Mechanical turks are great ways to get lots of information quickly, but the data they gather may be skewed by the population that participates in the largely unregulated systems. Furthermore, the survey wasn’t multiple choice; the survey-takers wrote whatever they wanted, and the researchers assigned broad categories to the answers on review, which potentially introduces error.

A preprint of the study is available online (pdf) ahead of publication. Wang-Chiew Tan, the lead researcher on the paper, says they’ve been accepted to present their findings at the Language Resources and Evaluation Conference in Japan later this year.