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Well-Being: Foundations of Hedonic Psychology

Daniel Kahneman
Ed Diener
Norbert Schwarz
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 608
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    The nature of well-being is one of the most enduring and elusive subjects of human inquiry. Well-Being draws upon the latest scientific research to transform our understanding of this ancient question. With contributions from leading authorities in psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience, this volume presents the definitive account of current scientific efforts to understand human pleasure and pain, contentment and despair. The distinguished contributors to this volume combine a rigorous analysis of human sensations, emotions, and moods with a broad assessment of the many factors, from heredity to nationality, that bear on our well-being. Using the tools of experimental science, the contributors confront the puzzles of human likes and dislikes. Why do we grow accustomed and desensitized to changes in our lives, both good and bad? Does our happiness reflect the circumstances of our lives or is it determined by our temperament and personality? Why do humans acquire tastes for sensations that are initially painful or unpleasant? By examining the roots of our everyday likes and dislikes, the book also sheds light on some of the more extreme examples of attraction and aversion, such as addiction and depression. Among its wide ranging inquiries, Well-Being examines systematic differences in moods and behaviors between genders, explaining why women suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than men, but are also more inclined to express positive emotions. The book also makes international comparisons, finding that some countries' populations report higher levels of happiness than others. The contributors deploy an array of methods, from the surveys and questionnaires of social science to psychological and physiological experiments, to develop a comprehensive new approach to the study of well-being. They show how the sensory pleasures of the body can tells us something about the higher pleasures of the mind and even how the effectiveness of our immune system can depend upon the health of our social relationships.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-325-8
    Subjects: Psychology, Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener and Norbert Schwarz
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Daniel Kahneman, Ed Diener and Norbert Schwarz
  5. Part 1 How Can We Know Who Is Happy?: Conceptual and Methodological Issues

    • 1 Objective Happiness
      (pp. 3-25)
      Daniel Kahneman

      How Happy Was Helen in March? A question is raised in a conversation between two psychologists about a common friend: “How happy was Helen in March?” In the context of an informal conversation, this question would usually be understood and answered with little difficulty. If we know Helen well and saw her often in March, we probably believe we know whether she was happy then, we almost certainly believe thatsheknows whether she was happy then, and with even greater certainty we believe that she knew it then. We also expect our answer to be understood more or less...

    • 2 Ecological Momentary Assessment
      (pp. 26-39)
      Arthur A. Stone, Saul S. Shiffman and Marten W. DeVries

      A vast amount of behavioral science research, especially psychological research, is conducted each year using self-report questionnaire and interview methodologies. Collecting information by having people report on their attitudes, current feelings, state of their mental health, opinions about various matters, and scores of other topics has proved useful and practical and has the virtue of a high degree of face validity. Despite these strengths and the overall acceptance of the methods, we argue that recent research indicates there are many potential problems with the self-report method as it is currently implemented. Methods of collecting information that do not rely on...

    • 3 Measurement Issues in Emotion Research
      (pp. 40-60)
      Randy J. Larsen and Barbara L. Fredrickson

      Experiences of psychic pain and pleasure, and the limitless variations on this hedonic theme, define the domain of emotions. The content of a person’s emotional life strongly influences his or her judgments of the quality of that life. In addition, a person’s emotional engagement with the “stuff” of life defines the “wantability” and utility of that stuff for building quality into life, for deciding to do one thing instead of another, and for being satisfied with the outcomes of his or her choices. To be sure, quality of life goes far beyond just feeling more pleasant than unpleasant emotions in...

    • 4 Reports of Subjective Well-Being: Judgmental Processes and Their Methodological Implications
      (pp. 61-84)
      Norbert Schwarz and Fritz Strack

      Much of what we know about individuals’ subjective well-being (SWB) is based on self-reports of happiness and life satisfaction. Since the groundbreaking studies of Bradburn (1969), Andrews and Whithey (1976), and Campbell, Converse, and Rodgers (1976), hundreds of thousands of survey respondents around the world have been asked questions like, “Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days—would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” or, “How satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days? Are you very satisfied, satisfied, not very satisfied, not at all...

    • 5 Wouldn’t It Be Nice? Predicting Future Feelings
      (pp. 85-106)
      George Loewenstein and David Schkade

      In the Beach Boys song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” an adolescent laments parental oppression, which stands in the way of the anticipated bliss of marriage to his sweetheart. If his wishes came true, would he be as happy as he believes? Or do his parents know something about his future preferences that he doesn’t? George Bernard Shaw might have sided with the parents, noting as he did that “there are two tragedies in life. One is to lose our heart’s desire. The other is to gain it.”

      The book in which this chapter appears is mostly about the mechanics of...

  6. Part II Feeling Good or Bad:: Pleasures and Pains; Moods and Emotions

    • 6 Preadaptation and the Puzzles and Properties of Pleasure
      (pp. 109-133)
      Paul Rozin

      The human body is physically defined by a sheath of skin, penetrated by seven holes. The sheath and holes are a veritable playground of pleasure and pain. Virtually all of the sensation-localizable pleasures we have, and many of the pains, are generated along this surface. Most sensations that come to us from this perforated sheath are hedonically tinged. The apertures, the salient points of entry and egress from the body—the mouth, nostrils, and genital and anal openings—are foci of affect, perhaps because of their critical and ambiguous (inside or outside of the body?) positions (Rozin et al., 1995)....

    • 7 On the Pleasures of the Mind
      (pp. 134-154)
      Michael Kubovy

      It is easier to point to pleasures of the mind than to define them. Imagine you’re ending a magnificent meal with good friends at Troisgros with the celebratedjeu de pommes—Granny Smith apple tartlets, topped with caramelized confectioners’ sugar and covered with a sauce of warmed acacia honey, calvados, and lemon juice (Lang 1988, 31) accompanied by a Coteau du Layon (Loire) sweet chenin blanc.¹

      Now remove the elements that made this a marvelous experience, except for the food. You eat the same dessert alone at home, on your everyday dishes, without having anticipated the delectable food or wine....

    • 8 Questions Concerning Pain
      (pp. 155-168)
      Eric Eich, Ian A. Brodkin, John L. Reeves and Anuradha F. Chawla

      What Is Pain? The most obvious question to ask about pain has long been considered one of the hardest to answer. Indeed, many of this century’s leading pain specialists either despaired of ever devising a suitable definition or insisted that pain is undefinable (see Bonica 1990a). Thus, Lewis (1942) allowed that “I am so far from being able satisfactorily to define pain . . . that the attempt could serve no useful purpose” (V), while Beecher (1959) asserted that “lexicographers, philosophers and scientists have none of them succeeded in defining pain” (5).

      Much of the difficulty that attends the problem...

    • 9 The Mood System
      (pp. 169-189)
      William N. Morris

      At their extremes, moods produce uniquely complex and powerful states that afford great pleasure or pain. In her recent memoir of manic-depressive illness, Kay Jamison (1995) vividly portrays both.

      Depression is awful beyond words or sounds or images. ... It bleeds relationships through suspicion, lack of confidence and self-respect, inability to enjoy life, to walk or talk or think normally, the exhaustion, the night terrors, the day terrors. There is nothing good to be said for it except that it gives you the experience of how it must be to be old, to be old and sick, to be dying;...

    • 10 Emotions and Hedonic Experience
      (pp. 190-210)
      Nico H. Frijda

      Emotions are an essential ingredient in the shaping of subjective well-being and the experienced quality of life. Well-being and experienced quality of life are emotional notions; they imply affect that is at emotion’s core. Moreover, the degree of well-being and judgment of quality are likely to be influenced by the number, and perhaps the duration and intensity, of pleasant and unpleasant emotions. For these reasons, understanding emotions is an important concern in the study of well-being and the quality of life.

      What we call emotions are responses to significant events that consist of several components belonging to the domains of...

  7. Part III Personality and Individual Differences

    • 11 Personality and Subjective Well-Being
      (pp. 213-229)
      Ed Diener and Richard E. Lucas

      The concept of “the good life” varies considerably among individuals. For some, this ideal state is one of wealth and luxury; for others, it is attained through meaningful relationships with friends and family. For still others, the physical comforts of wealth and security are forgone to provide better lives for those in need. These different kinds of Individuals would appear to be quite different in external circumstances, yet they might all share a subjective feeling of well-being.

      The term “subjective well-being” (SWB) refers to people’s evaluations of their lives. These evaluations include both cognitive judgments of life satisfaction and affective...

    • 12 Life Task Participation and Weil-Being: The Importance of Taking Part in Daily Life
      (pp. 230-243)
      Nancy Cantor and Catherine A. Sanderson

      Why is participating in valued activities and having and working toward personal goals so important for well-being? On a personal level, commitment to particular goals provides a sense of personal agency and purpose (Cantor 1990). As Brickman describes it, “Happy people know what they want to do and are doing it“ (Brickman and Coates 1987, 227). This feeling of confidence in one’s beliefs and choices serves to motivate action and involvement in valued life activities. As Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975, 1990) research on the state of “flow” illustrates, people experience great satisfaction when they are completely committed to and absorbed in a...

    • 13 Self-Regulation and Quality of Life: Emotional and Non-Emotional Life Experiences
      (pp. 244-266)
      E. Tory Higgins, Heidi Grant and James Shah

      It is natural to define quality of life in terms of the hedonic principle. After all, the principle that people approach pleasure and avoid pain has been, and continues to be,thefundamental motivational principle. It has ancient roots that can be traced at least to Plato’sProtagoras. In psychology, this principle underlies motivational models from the biological level of analysis distinguishing between the appetitive system involving approach and the aversive system involving avoidance (Gray 1982; Konorski 1967; Lang 1995) to the social level of analysis distinguishing between movements toward desired end-states and away from undesired end-states (Atkinson 1964; Bandura...

    • 14 Disturbances in Emotion
      (pp. 267-287)
      Howard Berenbaum, Chitra Raghavan, Huynh-Nhu Le, Laura Vernon and Jose Gomez

      The goal of this chapter is to describe suffering and well-being from the point of view of researchers who study psychopathology and emotion. Research on psychopathology is directly relevant to understanding the well-being of the approximately 50 percent of the general population who will have a psychiatric disturbance at some point in their life (Kessler et al. 1994). As we discuss in the last section of this chapter, psychopathology research is also relevant to understanding well-being in individuals who will not themselves have diagnosable psychiatric disturbance.

      We emphasize emotional disturbances, such as excesses in sadness and deficits in pleasure, rather...

    • 15 Personal Control and Well-Being
      (pp. 288-301)
      Christopher Peterson

      “Personal control” refers to the individual’s belief that he or she can behave in ways that maximize good outcomes and/or minimize bad outcomes. A belief in personal control may or may not be veridical, but what makes the notion intriguing is its self-fulfilling nature. Because personal control leads the individual to engage the world in a vigorous fashion, outcomes that originally elude control may eventually become controllable.

      Psychologists throughout the twentieth century have been interested in various incarnations of the personal control construct. My purpose in this chapter is to review some of this work and in particular its relevance...

    • 16 Hedonic Adaptation
      (pp. 302-329)
      Shane Frederick and George Loewenstein

      Most of us are familiar with striking examples of people who seem to be adapting well to circumstances that are extremely adverse. We may have seen footage of malnourished children playing happily in garbage dumps or know of severely handicapped people who maintain a cheerful disposition in spite of their disabilities. However, counterexamples come to mind as well: people who seem perpetually miserable, or those who were “never quite the same” after experiencing some devastating event. This chapter examines both the extent and limits ofhedonic adaptation—processes that attenuate the long-term emotional or hedonic impact of favorable and unfavorable...

    • 17 Gender Differences in Well-Being
      (pp. 330-350)
      Susan Nolen-Hoeksema and Cheryl L. Rusting

      Gender differences are commonly found in measures of psychological well-being. In this chapter, we review the evidence for gender differences in major psychopathology and everyday moods and behaviors. We review evidence for gender differences in both negative moods and disorders and positive moods and behaviors. We also note when gender differences are consistent across measurement methods, cultures, and age groups, and when they are not. Then we examine the evidence for the various biological, personality, and social context explanations that have been offered for these gender differences. We conclude by highlighting the explanations that have received the most empirical support...

  8. Part IV The Social Context

    • 18 Causes and Correlates of Happiness
      (pp. 353-373)
      Michael Argyle

      There is an immense amount of information about the effects of the demographic variables of age, sex, occupation, and the rest, which are normally included as the causes and correlates of happiness in social surveys. These surveys started with Cantril’s (1965) study of 23,875 people in 11 countries, the studies by Bradburn (1969) and Campbell, Converse, and Rodgers (1976) in the United States, and Inglehart’s (1990) analysis of Eurobarometer surveys for 16 countries, averaged over a number of years, usually 1980 to 1986, with a total of 163,538 respondents. Veenhoven and colleagues (1994) later presented the findings of 603 such...

    • 19 Close Relationships and Quality of Life
      (pp. 374-391)
      David G. Myers

      Do close, supportive, intimate human connections enhance quality of life? Western cultures offer mixed messages.

      On the one hand, we fret over supposedly addictive, dysfunctional relationships. Pop psychology books warn us against the yoke of “codependent” connections, marked by too much support and loyalty to a troubled partner at the cost of one’s own self-fulfillment. Recognizing that the “chains” of marriage and the “shackles” of commitment can put us in “bondage,” we are advised to give priority to enhancing our own identity and self-expression. “The only question which matters,” declared Carl Rogers (quoted by Wallach and Wallach 1985), “is, ‘Am...

    • 20 Well-Being and the Workplace
      (pp. 392-412)
      Peter Warr

      Paid employment is central to the functioning of societies and to the mental health of individuals. The majority of adults spend a large part of their life at work, and they are affected by it in multiple and sometimes conflicting ways. “Work” is usually defined in part as an activity directed to valued goals beyond enjoyment of the activity itself. (Not that work cannot be enjoyed, but immediate enjoyment is not part of the definition.) Definitions also often include a suggestion that it is a required activity and that it involves the expenditure of effort.

      People work in a range...

    • 21 The Measurement of Welfare and Well-Being: The Leyden Approach
      (pp. 413-433)
      Bernard M. S. van Praag and Paul Frijters

      The utility concept is a key concept in economics. It is well known that modern economics is a discipline with numerous subfields, but nearly all relevant problems have to do with people and people’s choice behavior. Individuals have limited resources and opportunities and therefore must choose between alternatives. An efficient way to describe the choice problem is to attach autility valueto these alternatives, for example,$U_{1},U_{2},U_{3},\ldots,U_{i},\ldots$and to postulate that an individual chooses the alternative that has the highest utility value for him. For example, if there is a choice set$\{1,2,3,\ldots,i,\ldots\}$, then the choice behavior is...

    • 22 National Differences in Subjective Well-Being
      (pp. 434-450)
      Ed Diener and Eunkook Mark Suh

      For millennia thinkers have discussed the quality of human existence—what makes a desirable society and individual life. Philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas concentrated on the individual and defined the quality of human life in terms of virtue, closeness to God, and other personal qualities. Other scholars such as Confucius focused on the quality of life of a society, stressing relationships between people. In modern times scientists measure the quality of life and approach this task from several directions. Economists assess the amount of goods and services produced by a society as a reflection of quality of life. Their assumption...

  9. Part V Biological Perspectives

    • 23 The Physiology and Pathophysiology of Unhappiness
      (pp. 453-469)
      Robert M. Sapolsky

      Imagine that an earnest young wildebeest, in the early stages of its Ph.D. program in psycho-biology, has finally selected a thesis project. The ambitious ungulate plans to study the physiological correlates of social behavior of the primateHomo sapiens. Thanks to anesthetic dartings of groups of tourists that frequent the savanna, a study population is outfitted with telemetry devices, remote blood collection systems, and ambulatory EKG monitors. All is going well, and a degree seems conceivable for this scholarly wildebeest when an inexplicable set of data appears—on certain occasions, specifically in the afternoons when the humans lounge in the...

    • 24 The Psychophysiology of Utility Appraisals
      (pp. 470-488)
      Tiffany A. Ito and John T. Cacioppo

      To survive, all species must be able to differentiate and respond appropriately to harmful and hospitable stimuli. The human brain and body have therefore been shaped by natural selection to calculate utility and respond accordingly. Evaluative decisions and responses are so critical that organisms have rudimentary reflexes for categorizing and approaching or withdrawing from certain classes of stimuli, and for providing metabolic support for these actions. A remarkable feature of humans is the extent to which the evaluations relevant to well-being are shaped by learning and cognition (for a similar point, see Sapolsky, this volume).

      The processes subserving the evaluation...

    • 25 Can Neurobiology Tell Us Anything About Human Feelings?
      (pp. 489-499)
      Joseph LeDoux and Jorge Armony

      Few topics about the human mind are as interesting and important as the nature of emotions. And few are less understood. Why is this so?

      The study of emotions has traditionally been focused on questions about emotionally charged subjective states, that is, feelings. Explaining what a feeling is, what distinguishes different feelings from one another, and what distinguishes feelings from non-emotional subjective states has been challenging, to say the least. But rather than being the problem that needs solving, feelings may instead be the problem that has prevented an understanding of emotions.

      All the while recognizing that there’s more to...

    • 26 On the Neural Computation of Utility: Implications from Studies of Brain Stimulation Reward
      (pp. 500-524)
      Peter Shizgal

      A rat sits quietly in the start box of a runway, its access to the six-foot alley blocked by an acrylic panel. The rat begins to groom, licking its paws and rubbing them over its snout. As the fastidious creature cleans the top of its head, it encounters a miniature electrical connector fastened firmly to its skull; the rat’s paws sweep across this now-familiar appendage without breaking rhythm. Unhindered by the flexible cable linking the connector to a stimulator, the rat then turns its head to groom its flank.

      The grooming bout is cut short as the stimulator sends small...

    • 27 Pleasure, Pain, Desire, and Dread: Hidden Core Processes of Emotion
      (pp. 525-557)
      Kent C. Berridge

      A cogent case can be made that the quality of life depends partly on the fulfillment of cultural themes of lifemeaning, such as personal goals or relationships (Cantor, Acker, and Cook-Flannagan 1992; Cantor et al. 1991; Ellsworth 1994; Roney, Higgins, and Shah 1995). The quality of life is not reducible to its mere quantity of pleasures and pains but includes purposeful, aesthetic, and moral considerations, too. Life is still a series of pleasures and pains, however, some large and some small, and hedonic states determine at least one important aspect of life’s quality. Any appraisal of the quality of...

    • 28 Neural Systems for Reinforcement and Inhibition of Behavior: Relevance to Eating, Addiction, and Depression
      (pp. 558-572)
      Bartley G. Hoebel, Pedro V. Rada, Gregory P. Mark and Emmanuel N. Pothos

      What makes people work? The question is basic to economics and psychology. One answer is rewards. But if rewards are defined as that for which people work, it is a circular definition (they work for . . . rewards they work for). To investigate and truly understand reward, we can either study the emotional basis of reward as reported subjectively, or we can define reward in terms that are objectively measurable and then study it behaviorally. The objective approach confers the advantage of being able to study reward in laboratory animals. The researcher’s choice of studying subjective versus objective responses...

  10. Contributors
    (pp. 573-574)
  11. Index
    (pp. 575-596)