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Lecture 16

PSY230H5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 16: Twin Study, Collectivism, World Map

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Ulrich Schimmack

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Often called subjective well-being
Lacking clear definition
According to philosophy, well being defined as “preference realization, which essentially means that you have
high well-being if your actual life is close to your own ideal. Another way to put it is to say that you have high
well-being if you get what you want
o Does not impose standards on people
o Assumes people have their own standards and ideals that determine their well being
o Consistent with general assumption of personality psychology that people are different from each other
Could be defined as being healthy, having good social relationships and freedom
o This definition assumes that people are the same and want the same things
Measurement of Well Being
Economists argue that money is a good measure of well being (easily measured)
Simply asking people to report their well being
o Make standard assumptions that people are willing and able to report this
o Research shows that people are about as good at reporting well being as they are to report personality
o Sufficient validity to be used for empirical studies although not perfect
Psychologists developed two types of well-being measures: affective and cognitive
o Affective: ask for reports of amount of pleasant affective experiences, often called Positive Affect (PA)
and amount of unpleasant affective experienced called Negative Affect (NA); higher levels of PA and
lower levels of NA indicate higher well-being
o Difference between PA and NA called affective balance or hedonic balance (because it is possible to
think of well being as a scale
o Cognitive measures of well being called life satisfaction judgments (i.e. my life is close to ideal; rate from
1 to 10)
o Cognitive and affective measures different in one way:
Affective measures measure how often you feel good/bad
Philosophers argue that well being can be seen as maximum pleasure and minimum
displeasure (maximizing pleasure isn’t the motive for everyone)- want to be in touch
with reality as well
Culture and Life Satisfaction
Results of life satisfaction studies in many nations show consistent cultural differences
World map of happiness- highest in North America and Northern European countries and low in Eastern
European and African countries
Wealth is one factor to explain the variation across countries (other factors include human rights, education,
health care, low corruption and individualism)
Well-being influenced by cultural and social factors
Wealthy democracies are better countries than others because they provide better opportunities for their
citizens to realize their preferences
Genes and Environment: Twin Studies
Environmental factors shared with siblings have no influence on life-satisfaction when you are an adult
Fact that life-satisfaction seem to be less heritable than personality traits could suggest that life-satisfaction is
more strongly influenced by environmental factors and actual living conditions
Twin studies do not show that genetic factors have influence on life-satisfaction
Stability of Individual Differences in Life Satisfaction
Life-satisfaction less stable than other personality characteristics like B5 or attractiveness
Genes tend to produce stability over time in life-satisfaction whereas environmental factors tend to produce
Together, twin studies and longitudinal studies suggests that genetic dispositions and biological processes
contribute to stable individual differences in well-being
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