Does happiness raise test scores – does fear lower them – experimental evidence

Charles N. Noussair, Kierstin Seaback

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The authors consider whether the emotional states of happiness and fear causally affect test performance using a new experiment. The paper aims to discuss this issue. Design/methodology/approach: Happiness and fear are induced with 360-degree videos shown in virtual reality before participants take a test consisting of mathematics scholastic aptitude tests (SAT) questions. Findings: The results show that scores improve by 0.48 standard deviations under the happiness condition, and the effect is particularly large for women (0.75 s.d.). Inducing fear has no effect on test scores. Originality/value: This is one of the first studies to employ virtual reality for emotion induction. It establishes that test scores can be improved by inducing an emotional state of happiness shortly before the test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1637-1646
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Economic Studies
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 22 2023


  • Emotions
  • Fear
  • Happiness
  • Test scores

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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