Examining the Relationship between Happiness and Chocolate Consumption in a Survey Study
Gabriela Dominguez, DeVonna Jacobs, and Katie Lau
Saint Mary’s College of California
I examined the correlation between the measures of happiness of St. Mary’s College students and how many chocolate items they eat per 7-day week. My fellow researchers and I used the survey method and created an appropriate questionnaire with questions pertaining to our variables for our sample of participants to complete. I predicted that there might be a positive correlation between how much chocolate a student eats and how happy they are. I then evaluated and compared the values of both variables and discovered there is no significant correlation between a student’s happiness and how many chocolate items they consume. We can’t make any conclusions as to why there is no significant correlation in this study, because correlation does not mean causation. There are many other factors in a person’s life that could be the reason for their happiness.
Correlation between Happiness and How Many Chocolate Items a Person Eats in a Survey Study
In our study, we were examining the variable of happiness for St. Mary’s college students. I was comparing the student’s measures of happiness with how many chocolate items they consume, to see if there is a correlation between the two variables. I find happiness to be an interesting topic when it comes to people, and wanted to learn about how happy St. Mary’s College students are with their lives. Through the events of school, work and life, students may or may not experience the emotion of happiness. I also wanted to see if there was a correlation between the happiness of students and how much chocolate foods they eat. There is the thought that chocolate makes a person happier just by eating it, so I thought it would be interesting to see if there truly is some sort of relationship between the two variables.
Before conducting the survey study, I expected to find a positive correlation between chocolate consumption and happiness. I’m did not expect for there to be an extremely obvious correlation but I am suspecting that the more chocolate a person eats during the week, the happier they are.
There were 20 participants who took part in our study. The group consisted of all St. Mary’s College students, including one male student, and 19 female students. The student’s ages ranged from 18 to 31 years old, however the mean age was 20.
My fellow researchers and I constructed an 11-question survey that consisted of varying questions. We asked people questions related to their happiness and questions pertaining to our other variables. The survey included five different questions, that each involved a different item to gather information on our main variable, the participant’s happiness. We asked how much each participant experiences happiness, loneliness, sadness, contentment and laughter in their lives, to get a measure of their happiness. For each of these questions, we provided a scale from one to five, one meaning disagree and five meaning agree. To be sure that the participants would not guess or figure out that we were measuring their happiness, we included three distracter items throughout the survey. These asked how often they study, meet with professors and drink coffee. Our five-point scale was also provided for these questions. The survey also contained three questions that involved finding information about our three other variables. I was working with two other researchers, and we each had our own variable that we were using to compare with our main variable of happiness. The questions in the survey pertaining to each of our other variables asked each participant how many times they go home, how many chocolate items they consume and how often they get a cold. These three questions did not use our five-point scale, they were followed by a blank, so each participant could fill in their own number and were not limited on how they could answer. The survey then ended with questions asking their age, gender and year in school. A copy of the full survey is located in Appendix A.
When collecting our data we asked students around campus and in our classes, if they would mind filling out our surveys. My fellow researchers and I each gathered seven completed surveys. When the participants accepted we let them fill out our survey, collecting it after they finished, and then thanked them for their participation.
In this survey study, we were trying to learn and gather information on the happiness of St. Mary’s students. We asked questions about differing emotions that we thought to be connected to happiness. We asked questions about sadness, laughter, contentment, loneliness and general happiness, and gathered our conclusions of how happy we found a student to be from these different items in the survey. When we calculated the Chronbach’s Alpha of all five of our items for happiness, the reliability value was .561. In order to determine if all the items we created were a good measure of happiness, we conducted five more trials of Chronbach’s Alpha, each time eliminating one different item from the list and comparing the results. We found that when removing laughter, the Chronbach’s Alpha’s value increased to .709. This showed us that with the measure of laughter eliminated, our study was more reliable. The other four items proved to be good measures of happiness because when we removed them from the list, the reliability value decreased. After using Chronbach’s Alpha, we decided to keep all of our items except laughter.
I used the Pearson correlation coefficient because I was working with interval data and my data on the scatter plot graph was linear. The Pearson correlation revealed that there is not a significant correlation between a student’s happiness (M = 14.85, SD = 2.64) and how many chocolate items a person consumes in the 7-day week (M = 4.6, SD = 4.13), r = -.006, n = 20, two-tailed. The coefficient of determination (r2 = 0.000036) indicates that .004% of the variance in the happiness of a student is explained by how many chocolate items a student eats in a 7-day week.
I was unable to conclude that there is a correlation between the happiness of St. Mary’s College students and the number of chocolate items they consume in the 7-day week. A limitation in this survey study is the negative affect that can come from using the survey method. The participants who completed our survey might have experienced social desirability, which is answering the questions with answers that they think we the researchers would like to see, or that are more socially accepted. For example, one of our variables was happiness and five questions in the survey involved asking people question related to their happiness. Participants might have tended to answer that they are happier than they truly feel, because being happy is seen as the socially correct emotion.
Another limitation in our study might have been our five-point scale that we provided for our participants on the survey. At the beginning of the survey, there was a description of both the numbers one and five. One meant disagree and five meant agree, and the numbers in between were left up for the participant to decide. The meanings of these numbers might have meant different things for different students. This is something we can never really measure or ever really know, causing it to be a limitation. Continuing with the same idea, my question about chocolate asked how many chocolate items a person eats in the 7-day week, and the definition of a “chocolate item” was left up to the participant to decide. Each participant could have had different definitions of a chocolate item, therefore possibly biasing the results. The social desirability also might have had an affect on the participants during this question.
Another limitation to our study is that I don’t know why my two variables are not correlated, I just know there isn’t a significant correlation between the two. It is said that eating chocolate can make a person happier, however, our study does not show a relationship. An interesting further study could be to research the same two variables but ask more detailed questions in the survey. It would be interesting to ask questions like what kind of chocolate items the participants are eating, or how spread out the chocolate items are eaten throughout the week. This possible further study could perhaps focus equal attention to the chocolate variable as to the happiness variable.
This study did not show that there is a relationship between chocolate consumption and happiness, which could mean that the common thought that there is an actual relationship, is incorrect. We don’t know what exactly causes the emotion happiness, but we can conclude that there is no relationship between chocolate consumption and happiness for our sample.