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The Folk Concept(s) of Happiness

Posted Dec 11 2009 10:40am

(cross-posted at the x-phi blog)

I've finally written up a rough summary of some survey results I've been collecting for several years now, posted at the link below. This has been pretty informal so far, and I'd like to follow up with better studies using larger samples, as well as to address some questions not yet studied here. You'll see that my methods are primitive, but I think the results are interesting all the same. 

The Folk Concept(s) of Happiness: Preliminary Notes

Very briefly and crudely, I take the studies to offer some evidence that:

  1. 'Happy' is primarily a psychological term in folk usage, whereas 'happy life' is closer to the normative notion of well-being or eudaimonia.
  2. Hedonism about well-being is probably not a majority view.
  3. Intuitions about well-being depend heavily on subtleties of wording.
  4. To count as happy (by lay stds), a mere majority of positive vs. negative affect does not suffice.
  5. Happiness ascriptions may draw on inferences about nonconscious affective states.
  6. People are happy to ascribe happiness based purely on affective information.

Comments and suggestions for future surveys most welcome!


PS--those wondering about the meanings of 'happiness' and 'well-being' here may want to consult my "brief guide" to such things, including a 1-pager, on my web site

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