Malcolm Gladwell, author of ‘Blink’ has some interesting things to say. If you have a spare 18 or so minutes then take a look at this vid. If you dont have so much time or you are blocked from accessing it for some reason, then let me tell you about Malcholm and some of his ideas.
He speaks of a man called Howard Mascovitch (spelling? Not sure). And basically the story goes like this: Howard was asked to come up with the perfect diet Pepsi. He was asked to work out the perfect level of sweetness. Having done some research, he came up with very messy data which did not provide an answer to the question: what is the perfect diet pepsi? He experienced much consternation, possibly gnashing of teeth, and he decided that there was actually no perfect pepsi. But there were indeed perfect pepsiS. Yes, capital S. Not one perfect anything, but many perfectS. And he took this into the area of pasta sauces. And he discovered that about one third of people actually like extra chunky, though this was not reflected in what people would tell you if you asked them what sort of sauce they like.
Apparently, simply asking people what makes them happy does not supply an accurate answer. If we ask people what sort of pasta sauce they will describe something that they imagine is ‘authentic’ Italian sauce. Not extra chunky at all.
It seems we cannot always say what our heart desires. We will say we like dark roast coffee when indeed only about 25-27% of people actually like their coffee this way. Most people like milky weak coffee. Asking it seems, is an incomplete and insufficient way to ascertain what makes us happy. But if we give people things to eat and to drink we discover what they really do like.
So Howard created, not a hierarchy of taste, but a horizontal plane of taste. And happiness? Not universal apparently. Here too there is diversity. And herein lies the answer to ‘what makes people happy?’.