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03-05-2018 | Uitgave 8/2018

Quality of Life Research 8/2018

Prevalence of context effects: testing with a straightforward question of yesterday happiness

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 8/2018
Kitae Sohn
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-018-1868-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Although contexts effects were found in responding to general happiness, it is little known how prevalent the effects can be in other measures of subjective wellbeing. If context effects are still found for a measure of subjective wellbeing that exhibits a host of features minimizing the effects, one can conclude that the effects can be quite prevalent. We aimed to assess this possibility.


We analyzed the Indonesian Family Life Survey by exploiting the random assignment of four versions of a list of 12 yesterday affects. The random assignment established causality on firmer ground. We applied ordered probit models by sex (10,162 men and 11,531 women): the dependent variable of interest was a measure of happiness, and the independent variables of interest were four affects that immediately preceded happiness.


We found that when sadness immediately preceded happiness, men were 2.4% points more likely to say not at all happy and 2.5% points less likely to say very happy. The corresponding figures for women were 1.5 and 1.8% points. We, however, found no discernible context effects when boredom and anger immediately preceded happiness.


Context effects were still found for a measure of subjective wellbeing even when the effects were thought to be minimal. That said, the different influence of sadness versus boredom and anger suggests that there are ways to alleviate context effects.

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