A VGTU scientist has been developing a formula of happiness – cameras monitor residents of Vilnius in his experiment
6 suspicious cameras monitor passers-by in Vilnius reading their mood from their face, the level of their excitement, heart rate, temperature or even respiratory rate. What is this for? This is not some Big Brother, but rather a science project designated for measuring people’s happiness and searching for ways to increase it. Artūras Kaklauskas, Prof. Habil. Dr. of Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU), assured that we will all be happier on Christmas Eve and sadder after the holidays – this is what the measurements revealed. But he already has recipes for making life happier in general.
Sensors installed at 6 places in Vilnius (in Gedimino pr., Pilies, Santariškių, Kalvarijų, Žygimantų and Islandijos streets) measure the emotional state of passers-by (how happy, sad, angry, surprised, scared, disgusted they are), their valence (the difference between positive and negative emotions), excitement, the level of their interest – boredom, also reading their physiological data, such as a heart rate, respiratory rate and face temperature.
This may sound like global tracking, but VGTU professor A. Kaklauskas reassures that this is not the case – personal data are not collected, and the system calculates anonymous hourly averages on passer-by moods and other data.
VGTU researchers implementing the ROCK project measure how much the population is affected by weather, pollution, solar electromagnetic storms or other factors.
The research data have already confirmed what may seem obvious: we are in the worst mood on Monday mornings and the best mood – on Fridays. People are happier on holidays, and after them, their mood becomes worse. The research results have already turned into a number of scientific articles.
However, this is not the only goal of the researchers. A. Kaklauskas is now trying to come up with a formula of happiness.
What are the moods of Vilnius residents before Christmas?
During the cold season, the happiness of Vilnius residents is lower – the data collected by the ROCK Programme Manager A. Kaklauskas in 2017 revealed that residents of Vilnius are the least happy in winter.
However, during the holidays, the level of happiness increases.
During the Christmas season of 2017, the highest level of happiness was reached on Christmas Eve, while on Christmas, the level of happiness dropped sharply. The second highest level of happiness was measured on New Year’s Eve, and on December 31st – January 1st, the level of happiness dropped, and was one of the lowest.
Similar trends occur during other festivals; for example, the mood of passers-by improves during the Kaziukas Fair or on Lithuania’s Independence Day. The level of happiness of passers-by in Vilnius can be measured in real time on a special website.
A. Kaklauskas shared his insights on how to increase personal happiness with 15min readers.
– What is it that you measure and how do you do that?
– We measure three key indicators. First of all, this includes six emotions: happiness, anger and the like. Then we measure valence, which is the sum of moods – good or bad mood, excitement, the strength and weakness of the emotions. For example, whether a person is very angry or very joyful. We also measure the affective state, i.e. whether a person is interested or not, how confused he is and the like.
We also measure the physiological state – the system determines whether a person is a male or a female, attributes him/her to a certain age group, measures face temperature, respiratory and heart rate.
In parallel, we get data on air temperature, various magnetic and air pollution information.
Then we analyse the data received in various cross-sections: in a daily cycle, weekly cycle, according to the person’s age, because people are different, also by seasons, other cycles, during holidays and non-holidays. Now we are comparing our data with data of the world.
– How does your equipment measure personal feelings: whether a person is happy, unhappy or excited? After all, people themselves sometimes find it hard to express what they feel, so how do machines do that?
– There actually are 40 points on a person’s face: if the corners of a person’s lips go upwards, the person is cheerful, if they point downwards, the person is sad. Having analysed thousands of people, 40 points were distinguished, monitoring how they change on the face in different moods.
This is similar to our intuition – when we look at a person or listen to a voice on the phone, we know how that person feels.
– But a person ends up in the range of cameras for a mere few seconds; how accurate is that?
People are there for longer than a few seconds, because they wait at a traffic light. The research revealed the accuracy to be about 87-90 %. We also analysed reliability. We have 300 million pieces of data, and more than 100 000 correlations were found. We compare our data to those of others and check their reliability.
– If we were to hang a sign “Smile, we are watching you”, could we trick the system?
– Literature describes examples of what to do if a husband wants to cheat on his wife – he has to walk 10 kilometres away from her, close the door, lie down in bed, place ten pillows on him… And still he will not be able to deceive a woman.
Generally, it is recommended to refrain from pretending in human communication. People have a strong intuition, they feel everything. If you feel very uncomfortable in communication with a person, but you pretend to be enjoying his company, he still feels that. He can read that in your eyes and your face.
– There is information appearing online that you will use the emitted waves to make people go to war or affect them otherwise, and that your project is intended for spying. What do you think about that?
– (Laughing) well, such misleading information still is advertising of the project. Karl Marx is the most influential scholar in terms of quoting him, even though more than a half of people quoting him said that he is absolutely absurd.
(Seeking to explain how their system functioned, the scholar mailed hundreds of pages of scientific literature to the editorial office).
– What was the most interesting to you, what did you find? What is it that affects people’s mood the most – what makes it better and what makes it worse?
– When comparing age groups, the younger or older a person is, the happier he is. And in-between – people want to raise children, to make money, buy an apartment, a car, want to travel and rest. They keep wanting and wanting. The most beautiful period is when a person is up to 30-35 years and past 60 years, while 30 – 60-year-olds take every effort, have great ambitions, fail at many things resulting in a number of problems. This proved to be true in Vilnius. Even medics say that 35-year-old men now often suffer from heart attacks.
Another thing is daily and weekly cycles. For example, a person has essentially been created so that he is happier in the morning and evening as a result of his circadian rhythm. Another thing adds to this: more than half of people do not like their job, it is not their hobby. For these two reasons, people are happier in mornings and evenings than during the day.
Looking at the week, Friday is the best and Saturday is also happier than the working days.
Men feel worse at home than women. Women have more needs and engagements, 3 000 or even more, while men have a mere 10 or even less. Our research shows that women are happier at home in the evenings, in the mornings, on Saturdays or Sundays, they have more to do, and have a number of hobbies.
Then there are year cycles. Everyone is more likely to become depressed when it is dark outside. The elderly and children are less likely to suffer from depression, and middle age groups, especially men, are more affected. Accordingly, this affects physiological parameters, the temperature – it changes with all those cycles.
– Why do you need all this? What do you want to do with these data?
– Now we seek to derive formulas for different age groups and supplement them with various variables to come up with a formula of happiness. We seek to find what it depends on – such things as the changing pollution, magnetic storms, or other things.
We have a lot of data, a lot of dependencies, mathematically checking the reliability of models and creating different formulas when a person is angry, happy, when he is curious, or when nothing interests him.
This can be applied in practice, for example, the level of activeness of people, their productivity, depends on happiness. 300-500 cases have been found when the quality of a happy person improves. The overall GDP is also increasing, because people are more productive, have a better memory, better relationships, are healthier, and so on.
If a person is happy, he is more successful in all areas of his life.
In addition to Vilnius, we also measured happiness in Brussels, Bologna, Lisbon, now we will start doing that in Sri Lanka. We have sent our equipment all over the world.
– What are the moods of Vilnius residents this holiday season?
– Generally, people’s moods are always better during holidays. The key factor here is that when people do what they want, they always stay happy. And if they do what they do not want to do, they are forced to do something at work and the like, they are very unhappy. Women in particular now have a lot to do.
Information by A. Kaklauskas / Level of happiness of passers-by in Vilnius improves during holidays
– How can you explain that?
– The elderly, especially men, are the biggest problem in America, for example. They stick to their jobs, their high-ranking positions and do not want to leave them. In Europe and Lithuania, many men die as soon as they retire. While they have a job, they stay busy from morning to evening, and they have nothing to do when they come home.
Having retired, men have fewer activities, hobbies, needs, which leads to severe problems throughout the world. After leaving an interesting job or a good position, men die because they lose the object of interest.
Women have thousands of interests: they grow flowers, do other stuff and do not feel empty.
The US now spends a lot of money on health protection through means other than medication. For the past five years, Lithuania has also talked about treating people by other means, for example, by creating conditions for them to live healthy.
For example, if a person lives near a park, his life expectancy will be five years longer, and he will create USD 10 000 more in GDP in the US compared to others. This can be explained by a beautiful environment having a calming effect. Also, when people have nothing to do, they exercise, which helps them stay healthy. Large amounts of money are spent for people to have a meaningful interesting spare time in unpolluted environment. This is when the elderly people are healthier and happier. The same goes to young people as well.
– It sounds strange that the happiness index is quite low, it starts growing during holidays and is the highest on Christmas Eve, but then falls on Christmas. Why is that?
– Well, say, Monday mornings are the worst for many. This means a person is very happy on Saturday, somewhat less happy on Sunday, as he already prepares for work, and he feels the worst on Monday morning when he has to go to work. Same goes for holidays – people are in a very good mood during holidays, but after the holidays and the festivities end, people go back to their daily routines having to do what they must do, and there is a little happiness in that.
Not all of us have a job which is like a hobby.
Photos by Ignotas Kuprys / 15min/ Prof. Habil. Dr. Artūras Kaklauskas
– But the first day of Christmas is still a holiday. People still should be happier?
– This is not a laboratory test and that’s a problem. It may be so that walking by, a person sees a beautiful girl or a friend, while someone else may just have seen an accident – people are affected by thousands of factors. Laboratory tests are usually conducted in the world, which allows controlling all factors.
Our research is complex in the fact that it is affected by thousands of factors at a time: blowing wind, beeping cars, smell of gas and the like. Measurements under actual rather than laboratory conditions are difficult.
– There are many things that people cannot control: they cannot suddenly change jobs, mute traffic or other external factors. But have you come up with some recipes how we could increase our happiness?
– Yes, there are some. And I will tell you a formula, which is not mine, but someone else’s. I have realized that, and all religions of the world offer the same thing.
Simply said, happiness is what I want of life and what I get. All religions of the world offer to turn back to own self, to the nature, and to pursue what one can take from own self or from nature. They suggest giving up all big, terribly expensive cars, traveling, and anything that cannot or is very difficult to achieve.
For example, if a person is very ambitious and wants to get 95 percent of everything for his family to do good, to have a huge apartment, a house, a car, children, to travel and have everything else. If he achieves 25 percent of everything instead of 95 percent, he will feel miserable. While some Hindu expects to get 5 percent, and if he ends up getting 7, he is way happier.
– What percentages are you talking about?
– I am talking about ambition. If, for example, I want it all. If a person wants everything, it will ruin his life. Religions suggest limiting your needs to the needs given by nature and God. Let’s say if I like to go out for a walk, to jog – I can always do that. If I want to live with my family, I can also do that, or if I want an interesting job, I can get it.
If a person sets for himself the goals that he needs, they will not be plentiful, he will be able to achieve them all the time and be happy. But if a person wants a super expensive car for a million euros or to live in a city centre in a 10 million euro-worth house, to have a very beautiful, 20 years younger woman, who is a desire of all men, well then …
By the way, research shows that if a man has a super beautiful wife, he usually dies at the age of 52, because he feels stressed seeing how everyone wants her.
Lighting of Vilnius Christmas Tree at the Cathedral Square
– You talk about religions offering simple recipes. And what about you yourself – are you religious?
– No, I am not religious at all, but those things are interesting to me. Philosophy is another thing that interests me.
The principle is very simple here. A person should set such goals and ambitions, which he can truly implement and achieve. But if he wants it all, he will simply ruin his life. We have a number of 40-year-old men having died from a heart attack. Achieving it all is impossible.
– Did this research allow you to increase your level of happiness yourself?
– When a person has a job, which is his hobby, he will always achieve more.
If you want to ruin a person’s life, tell him to do what he does not want to do. He will feel miserable, and there are thousands of studies on that.
There was one study conducted in Great Britain, when smart children from poor families were compared to children from richer families, who were not that smart. Rich children lived wealthy, in good conditions, had good food, good friends, exercised, led a healthy lifestyle, while poor children had no money and lived in poor conditions. The development of poor children slowed down and that of rich kids sped up, and they outperformed poor kids.
Europe has tried to resolve the problem of social exclusion for hundreds of years: for example, why Churchill’s relatives were in power for a thousand years, while everyone else could not do that. Again, the theory says that if a person does good in school, lives healthily, engages in sports and has good friends, his development will be very rapid. Accordingly, the air may be better somewhere in a countryside, the environment may be less stressful there, but it is different, and the development is slower there. And this is why Europe cannot overcome the problem of social exclusion.
– How long do you plan to continue measurements in Vilnius and what is your ultimate goal – what is it that you plan to achieve?
– We plan to operate for another couple of years, because the City of Vilnius has become more actively involved in the research.
And when it comes to the ultimate goal: if a person does what he is interested in and feels happy, he will achieve a lot. And this relates not only to happiness, but also to economic achievements.
The goal is for people to live happy and healthy, and to contribute to the economy, productivity and creativity. How can a scientist, a writer or a journalist write an article if he lacks inspiration? But he can do things much faster when he is inspired.
– Thank you for the interview.
Autor: Ernestas Naprys
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