Name: Kelly Wang

Area of study: Personality/Social

In what program are you currently enrolled? MA

What year are you in? 2

Citation: Wang, J., & Milyavskaya, M. (in press). Simple pleasures: How goal-aligned behaviors relate to state happiness. Motivation Science

We hypothesized that we are happier when we are engaging in activities that are related to our personal goals than when we are engaging in activities that are unrelated to our personal goals. Two studies tested this idea with undergraduate students. Results showed that, throughout the day, participants rated themselves as happier when they were engaged in activities that align more closely with their personal goals than when they engaged in activities that are less goal-aligned. In the moment, this effect was unique from the increase in happiness that comes from feeling like they were making progress on their goals. When measured over the day, goal alignment did not have an effect on happiness above and beyond that of goal progress.

How did the idea for this research come about?

This paper started with a discussion with my supervisor, Dr. Marina Milyavskaya. There is a consistent relationship between goal progress and happiness, but not much research on the immediate effects of engaging in goal-aligned activities. We expected that engaging in an activity would still elevate subjective well-being even if no significant progress has been made. For example, the act of doing an activity may give a sense of competence, which has been shown to be related to positive subjective well-being.

Fortunately, we had an available dataset (Study 1) that contained the measures that we are interested in. It was an experience sampling study that asked participants to fill out short questionnaires at random times throughout their day. We were able to analyze the relationships between what the participants were doing (i.e., how related it was to their personal goals) and their self-reported happiness. The dataset also allowed us to clarify difference between doing something goal-aligned and actually making progress on that goal and test competence as a potential mediator.

How did you collect the data for this project? 

The data for the first study were collected with McGill University students as part of a larger study on personal goal pursuit and achievement. Students were compensated with credits towards their psychology courses. The second study was collected using Amazon Mechanical Turk. These participants were compensated with $0.50 for a 10-minute questionnaire.

Was the journal you published in the first journal you submitted this paper to? Yes

Why did you choose this journal? 

We initially chose Motivation Science because of its focus on motivation and the possibility of publishing our Study 1 as a Brief Report. After collecting data for Study 2, we wanted to continue with the journal and see what feedback we might receive for addressing the concerns of the previous reviewers.

How many other journals did you submit this paper to before it landed in the journal that eventually published your work? 0

What was your revision experience? 

Our first submission only contained study one and was rejected because the data was not sufficiently conclusion. In response, we designed and pre-registered Study 2 to examine the different impacts that goal-alignment and goal progress have on happiness at the state level (i.e., in the moment of engaging in activities). Our second submission, with Study 2, was asked to be revised to clarify our argument and to add in a discussion of the potential moderating factor of the quality of personal goals. The revised submission was accepted.

How many rounds of revision did you experience? 2

Did you need to collect new data to satisfy a reviewer? Yes

How long did it take from first submission to acceptance? 10 months

Was this paper conducted as part of your MA thesis? No

If you answered no to the last two questions, please explain how this project came about. 

This project started as a discussion with my supervisor and took off because we had the data available to test our ideas. Each latter step in the process (writing up a short manuscript for a Brief Report submission, collecting new data to check our results, editing for a longer manuscript) required a relatively small amount of work and eventually led to a full paper.

Was this research conducted with your supervisor? Yes

Supervisor: Marina Milyavskaya

Was this research conducted with fellow graduate students in our program? No

Was this research conducted with researchers external to Carleton? No