Myers and Dieners

  • Created by: Teganwi
  • Created on: 16-05-21 11:13

Aim and Methodology

Aim: to provide an overview of what traits and factors that contribute towards happy people

Research Method: Literature review

Sample: reviewed 107 journals on articles/books on SWB, included 16 countries

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1. Reviewed all of the articles

2. Grouped findings into different themes around happiness;

  • age
  • culture/race
  • wealth
  • gender
  • religion

3. Used all the information to create a literature review

4. Used a variety of techniques to gather data:

  • self report
  • meta analysis
  • correlations
  • observation
  • interviews/questionnaires
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Myths of happiness

Age: survey of almost 170,000 people of all ages in 16 different countries found no differences. The mean score was 80% satisfaction with life (Inglehart). People experience crises and are not restricted with age, such as the mid life crisis (McCrae and Costa)

However, different factors contribute to happiness at different ages, e.g. health more important (Herzog et al). 

Gender: Inglehart's survey of 16 different countries found that 80% of men and women were 'fairly satisfied' with life. Found that a person's gender accounted for less than 1% of glabal well-being (Haring et al)

However, women are twice as vulnerable to depression than men (Robins and Regier)

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Myths of happiness

Race/Culture: African -Americans reported nearly twice as much happiness as European-Americans (Diener et al). Portugal 10% reported to be happy compared to 40% in the Netherlands (Inglehart). People in individualistic cultures report greater SWB than in collectivist cultures-more concerned of needs of the group than their individual needs and thus their individual happiness.

Wealth: 1993 survey found that 75% of American students selected 'being well of financially' as an essential life goal, compared to only 39% in 1970 (Astin et al).

However, correlation between income and happiness is modest +.12 (Diener et al). Survey of people on Forbes rich list found that 37% were less happy than the average American (Diener et al). People who win the lottery only report brief increases in their happiness (Argyle).

Does not apply in situations where people are poor, for example in poor countries like Bangladesh those with money report greater SWB. Wealth only increases happiness until a level of comfort is reached, this being the basic needs are met.

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Happy People- some people seem to be happier than others regardless of life's ups and downs. Costa et al found people who reported being happy, tended to also be a decade later.


  • High self esteem
  • Sense of personal control-  empowered
  • Optimism
  • Extraversion

Unsure whether these traits make people happy or develop because they are happy.

Relationships: Some people view that relationships causes more stress and unhappiness, Jean-Paul Satre-'hell is other people'.

For most the benefits outweighs the strains. People who can name several close friends are happier and healthier (Burt). Married people reported 39% happier compared to 29% of non-married (Lee et al). Meta-anaysis of 93 studies showed similar levels of happiness of married and non-married (Wood et al)

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Happy People

Work and flow: People who are out of work are less happy than those in work. Work provides a personal identity, a sense that one's life matters and a sense of community.

However, it can also be unsatisfying and stressful. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced concept of 'flow', extent we get caught up in an activity so that other things matter less. Used beepers to question people throughout their day about what they were doing right then and whether they were happy. Found that people were happiest when engaged in mindful challenge and experiencing flow. (link to the good life)

Religion: North America and Europe (religious areas) report higher levels of happiness (Poloma and Pendleton) Poeple with high spiritual commitment were twice as likely to say they were happy (Gallup). Happiness associated with strength of religious affiliation and frequency of worship (Witter at al)

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Theories of Happiness

  • Importance of adaptation- effects of positive and negative fade over time, e.g. poeple who win the lottery report short term increases of happiness. People who go through psychological truama recover their happiness. A longitudinal study found events that only happened in the last three months affect out SWB. Humans adapt to life circumstances.
  • Cultural world view- cultural attitudes predispose people to interpret life events differently, some places consider the world as good and controllable whereas some focus on negative emotions like anger.
  • Values and goals- Poeple with high SWB have goals. Factors such as money or intelligence only matter if they are relevant in achieving this goal. Explains why money is more important in poorer countries as it is relevant to their goals, whereas in more affluent countries it does not as it is less relevant in influencing achieving their goals.

The Future

Person's happiness not predictable from age, gender or wealth. It is more associated wiht race and culture. People who are happier posses certain traits and closer relationships, experience flow and more religious. Important for psychologists to enhance well-being.

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Method and Porcedures

Sample: Data is based on Western views of happiness, this is ethnocentric. Their views may not reflect how happiness is viewed in other societies, fro example in collectivist cultures. Their happiness comes from the success of the group rather than the individual, so the root and definition of happiness is different. As well, much of the research was conducted in Western societies.

Correlations: Much of the research was correlations, this can only show relationships between different factors and SWB, we cannot assume that these factors have caused changes in the SWB. We cannot assume causation due to intervening variables that are involved such as people who are married are happier, however other factors such as a bigger income could be the reason for this hapiness.

Self-report: A lot of the research used was self-report measures, these can be vulnerable to people giving socially desirable answers to appear in a good light. Myers and Dieners acknowledged that people who represent themselves as happy give socialliy desirable answers. However, when their ratings correlate with the friends rating of the individuals socially desirable answers it confirms the validity of it. It has also been suggested that they are repressing their true feelings, however there was a match of what the individual said and their friends and family said.

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Alternative Evidence

Genetics: From this research it shows that happpiness stays at a fairly steady level through one's life, with occasional highs and lows. Some call this your happiness set point and believe it is partially due to your genetics. The 5-HTT gene has been linked to happiness, it controls the level of neurotransmitter seratonin. Some have a form of this gene that report a higher level of satisfaction (Schinka et al).

However, Sonja Lyubomirsky argues that happiness is 50% genes, 10% circumstances and 40% is self controlled factors  they have let influence them. This is supported by family studies.

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Ethical and Social issues

  • Socially sensitive- considered ethical on the basis it uses secondary data and does not deal with actual participants. However, the study reported levels of happiness differ between cultures and countries and can cause certain prejudices against them. Such as Portugal and Netherlands research can lead people to assume Portuguese people are unhappy and less likely to go and visit Portugal. We also need to be cautious about this evidence as we do not know if the sample used was a fair representation.
  • Psychological harm- Little risk of harm due to no manipulation and secondary data. However, people being asked about happiness can cause someone to think about past truamas and cause them to feel more depressed. Thus we need to make sure that they are debriefed appropriately.
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