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Sometimes looking for happiness in the long term might seem unachievable because of changes in an individual’s expectations. This makes individuals habituate quickly to new aspects for happiness. Equally, it may depend on if individuals compare their possessions with others. 

Habituation and comparison lead to an unending cycle of desires 

It is vital to note that comparison and habituation result in a never-ending cycle of desires that are most likely to impact someone’s well-being and mental health. However, acknowledging the pros and cons can help in establishing interventions and policies to address mental health preconceptions.

According to a recent study entitled “the pursuit of happiness: A reinforcement learning perspective on habituation and comparisons,” an individual’s happiness can be reduced by comparisons, which hastens learning. Researchers employed the study’s reinforcement learning, a form of a computational framework.

Princeton University Professor Nathanial Daw told Medical News Today that having a robot pick between various options is difficult. He explained that it is challenging to set up a robot to pick the right alternatives, with the study focusing on human happiness. 

The study’s lead author Rachit Dubey said reinforcement learning techniques emphasize training to map situations. Notably, the method’s guiding premise is to teach agents to utilize a variety of incentives for desirable, positive behavior and deterrent rewards for undesirable behavior.

Positive reinforcement important in learning 

According to Dubey, the approach is comparable to how humans learn from positive reinforcement, like wealth and recognition, and steer clear of acts that result in negative reinforcement, such as pain and unhappiness.

When training agents in the study, researchers rewarded them if they outperformed the competence of others. They then employed the agents in a variety of experiments in various settings.

The study found that learning was much quicker in rewarded agents for comparison and habituation compared to reward-based agents but showed less happiness. Therefore comparison and habituation can enhance adaptive behavior by serving as a learning sign. Interestingly, comparison can expedite learning since it offers an exploration incentive with appropriate expectations provided as a comparison aid where there are few rewards.