I’m one of the first through the doors, and after registering a few details – including consent – I find myself in a surprisingly bright and airy isolation pod. My first task is a computer-based study to see how someone’s sense of humour affects our perception of their facial attractiveness. Or as the brochure eloquently puts it: if you are happier are you hotter?
All around the compact exhibition, people are similarly taking part in studies aimed to investigate a range of questions: can thinking about a good deed make you happy? Is happiness linked to language? What aspects of our lives most affect our happiness? Some even demonstrate how simple body movements like feigning a smile or looking up could, quite literally, lift the mood.
The exhibition kicked off last week as part of the Dublin City of Science 2012 Festival. So why the focus on happiness?
“Modern economists are beginning to realise that actually, psychological well-being is as big a factor – maybe even a bigger factor – in a country’s well-being as any financial or material wealth,” says Ian Robertson, professor of psychology at Trinity.
The exhibition also marks the 50th anniversary of Trinity College’s School of Psychology: “We decided that a series of research studies into happiness and its causes and consequences was an ideal way to mark the occasion,” Robertson says.