Happiness - Dissertation

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Christian Krekel


This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science. This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

The course aims to introduce students to the main concepts and tools of the growing science of happiness, with a focus on their applicability in policies across all sectors (government, private business, and the voluntary sector). To achieve this aim, the course is based on ten lectures covering: 1) what is happiness?; 2) evaluations of happiness; 3) experiences of happiness; 4) attention and adaptation; 5) mistakes about happiness; 6) happiness by design; 7) the narrative trap; 8) policy appraisal using preferences; 9) policy appraisal using happiness; 10) happiness as a policy objective.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Indicative reading


Clark, A.E., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N., and Ward, G. (2018). The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course. Princeton, MA: Princeton University Press.

Dolan, P. (2014). Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life. London: Penguin.

Dolan, P. (2019). Happy Ever After: Escaping the Myth of the Perfect Life. London: Allen Lane.

Layard, R. (2005). Happiness: Lessons from a New Science. London: Penguin.

Layard, R, (2020). Can We Be Happier? Evidence and Ethics. London: Penguin.

Journal Articles

Clark, A.E., Diener, E., Georgellis, Y., and Lucas, R.E. (2008). Lags And Leads in Life Satisfaction: a Test of the Baseline Hypothesis. Economic Journal, 118(529), F222-F243.

Dolan, P., and Kahneman, D. (2008). Interpretations Of Utility And Their Implications For The Valuation Of Health. Economic Journal, 118(525), 215-234.

Dolan, P., and Kudrna, L. (2016). Sentimental Hedonism: Pleasure, Purpose, and Public Policy. In Vittersø, J. (ed). Handbook of Eudaimonic Well-Being (International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life). Cham: Springer.

Dolan, P., Laffan, K., and Velias, A. (2018). Who’s miserable now? Identifying clusters of people with the lowest subjective wellbeing in the UK. Office for National Statistics.

Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., and White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94-122.

Layard, R., Clark, A.E., Cornaglia, F., Powdthavee, N., and Vernoit, J. (2014). What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life-course Model of Well-being. Economic Journal, 124(580), F720-F738.

Wilson, T., and Gilbert, D. (2003). Affective forecasting. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 345-411.


Dissertation (100%, 10000 words) post-summer term.

You are required to write a 10,000 word dissertation (replacing the 3000 word summative assesment on PB421). You are expected to attend the course teaching on the half-unit that you choose to write your dissertation on.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2019/20: 8

Average class size 2019/20: 8

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information