Peter Harvey, Producer on the project, takes us through an experiment that aims to help people be happier.
Can you sum up the project?
The ‘Secrets of Happiness’ experiment does two things. Firstly, it offers everyone personalised tips on improving their mental wellbeing and mental health. We can’t all land our dream job or win the lottery; but we can make small changes that psychologists believe can improve the quality of our everyday life. Research evidence suggests that there are simple approaches, which can make us – and keep us – feeling happier.
Secondly, the ‘Secrets of Happiness’ experiment gives you the chance to take part in a real scientific study. Mental health is complicated, with many factors – from our genes to our circumstances – contributing to how we feel. If scientists want to understand how these different factors are related, then data from thousands of people are needed. That’s where you come in. By taking part, you’ll help scientists gather data that would be hard to get in other ways.
Who made it?
The ‘Secrets of Happiness’ test is a collaboration between the BBC and psychologists at the University of Liverpool. The lead researcher, Professor Peter Kinderman, has many years’ experience of conducting large-scale studies like these.
Digital agency, Joi Polloi, built the site and worked with us to make the test as easy as possible to complete.
What were the challenges?
Citizen science experiments like ‘Secrets of Happiness’ try to balance the needs of the participants while still gathering the data in a robust scientific way. The website design mustn’t influence the way people respond to the questions. But we want to make answering challenging questions as easy as possible, and make the purpose of taking part absolutely clear.
What do you hope to learn from it being on Taster?
The BBC has run a number of citizen science experiments in the past. But this is the first we’ve attempted in the ‘smartphone’ era. We’re also inviting people to submit data twice, separated by six weeks. Gathering two data sets from the same participant, many weeks apart, is of enormous value to scientists. We’re interested to see how many people will complete the second phase, and how effective our reminder methods are at getting people to return.