Name: Dr Chris Boyce
Research institution: School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester
Research career length: 6 years
Research Council: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Location: Manchester, England
Brief summary of research: How life events influence an individual’s health and happiness
10 GCSEs in various subjects
A-levels: Mathematics, Economics and Physics
BSc in Economics, University of Surrey
MSc in Economics University of Warwick
PhD in Psychology University of Warwick
Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick
Research Fellow at the Paris School of Economics, École Normale Supérieure, France
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Manchester
Everyone wishes to be happy and contented in their lives, but happiness is a difficult thing to define, let alone measure. Having both an academic background in economics and psychology, Chris Boyce is keen to discover what are the factors that contribute to a sense of personal wellbeing, and how changes in circumstances like promotion at work, income increases or unemployment, affect how happy we are.
It never crossed my mind when I was at school to do research. Initially I began a Mechanical Engineering course at university, but I left the course soon after I started and I thought that university probably wasn’t going to be for me. But I spent a lot of time doing ‘non-academic’ related things for a few years and I learnt a good deal about myself, including what was important.. I eventually decided to go back to university but this time to study something I really enjoyed, rather than simply opting for a course with good career prospects, as I had done previously.
I had enjoyed economics at school and continued to do so when I went back to university to study the subject. I graduated from the University of Surrey with a BSc in Economics and towards the end of my degree I had started thinking about doing research in economics. I then moved to the University of Warwick to complete an economics Master’s degree but during my time as a Masters student I became interested in psychology and subjective wellbeing research. In 2009, I completed a PhD in Psychology, and since then I have held positions as a Research Fellow first at the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Warwick and then at the Paris School of Economics.
Subjective wellbeing refers to how a person considers their own personal wellbeing – this may include whether a person feels satisfied with their life or how happy they are in the moment. My work attempts to push the boundaries of subjective wellbeing research, by drawing on a range of academic disciplines, including economics and psychology, among others.
I feel that it is extremely important for societies to find out how to help their citizens become more satisfied and happier with their lives. This is a principle that forms the basis of my research and it is not always the case that improvements to objective measures of wellbeing also result in greater satisfaction or happiness. We all think we know what makes us happy, but the world is extremely complex and finding contentment is not as straightforward to achieve as we sometimes think. This is where research can help - by trying to understand some of the important things in life within this complexity and then apply research findings to help improve lives. I have certainly taken into account some of what I have discovered and adapted aspects of my own life to improve my own health and happiness.
I publish my research findings in leading academic journals, and share my ideas by attending conferences, engaging with members of the public, including talking to young people, and speaking to the media. Alongside my research, I do a small amount of teaching at the University of Manchester.
When I consider what influenced me to become a researcher, three words spring to mind; passion, passion, passion. My parents, teachers and careers advisers had little influence over my choices, and it was really only when I started thinking for myself and listening to my own dreams, that I realised how much I wanted to follow this particular path. My ambitions are quite minimal – I want to be happy in what I do and if it keeps making me happy then I’ll keep doing it.