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Unformatted text preview: A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING: ITS MEASUREMENT, CORRELATES AND POLICY USES Prepared for the international conference Is happiness measurable and what do those measures mean for policy? Organised by the Bank of Italy, the Centre for Economic & International Studies (CEIS), the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD) 2-3 April 2007, University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’ André van Hoorn # Nijmegen Center for Economics (NiCE), Radboud University Nijmegen # Based on joint work with Stefano Castriota. Helpful comments by Anat Itay, Ramzi Mabsout and Robbert Maseland are gratefully acknowledged. The usual disclaimer applies. 1. INTRODUCTION Few people have ever doubted that happiness is very important. In fact, starting at least with the Ancient Greeks, the concept has been subject of unremitting debate. Surely this would not have been the case if people generally felt it did not matter. 1 Since happiness has captured, and continues to capture, the interest of so many people, it should not come as a surprise that philosophers and many others debating the concept have long yearned for a way to measure it. The breakthrough came in the 1950s. Psychologists – until then mainly interested in negative emotional states such as depression and anxiety – became interested in positive emotions and feelings of well-being. Within the discipline a consensus grew that self-reports on how well life is going, can convey important information on underlying emotional states, and so the field pushed ahead with measuring what is best referred to as subjective well-being (commonly abbreviated as SWB). SWB, we should immediately note, is not the same as happiness although the terms are often used synonymously. SWB, in fact, is ‘a broad category of phenomena that includes people’s emotional responses, domain satisfactions, and global judgements of life satisfaction’ (Diener et al., 1999: p. 277). Specifically, reported SWB consists of two distinctive components (cf. Diener, 1994: p. 106): an affective part, which refers to both the presence of positive affect (PA) and the absence of negative affect (NA), and a cognitive part. The affective part is a hedonic evaluation guided by emotions and feelings, while the cognitive part is an information-based appraisal of one’s life for which people judge the extent to which their life so far measures up to their expectations and resembles their envisioned ‘ideal’ life. Since the emergence of the field over five decades ago, the SWB literature has progressed rapidly. First, as recent surveys show, psychologists and other social scientists have taken huge steps in their understanding of the factors influencing people’s SWB. In addition, the methods by which empirical content is given to the concept of SWB have drastically improved and are expected to continue to do so as increasing use will be made of advances in information- and communication technology (ICT). As such, SWB research advances in information- and communication technology (ICT)....
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This note was uploaded on 09/26/2011 for the course PSYCHOLOGY 110 taught by Professor Kannan during the Spring '11 term at Anna University Chennai - Regional Office, Coimbatore.

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