In the programme ‘The Science of Well-Being’, Laurie Santos from Yale University illustrates with the help of Ebbinghaus Illusion how our perception about happiness can be influenced by who we judge ourselves against.
In the Ebbinghaus Illusion, the orange surrounded by larger circles seems smaller than the one on the right surrounded by smaller circles despite the fact that both orange circles are exactly the same size.
We tend to make social comparisons, compare ourselves against other people. For example, if you live in a 100 m2 apartment and you are surrounded mostly by people who live in an apartment or house significantly larger than yours, you may feel dissatisfied with your apartment. Yet, if you are surrounded by people living in a flat significantly smaller than yours (e.g. 40m2), you may feel more satisfied with your house and maybe your life in general.
It’s illogical. The absolute or true size of the apartment doesn’t change, but our own and others’ perception may change depending on the context or reference point, i.e. a point to which we are judging something. And that may influence our perception of satisfaction and happiness in general.