A Flourishing Guidebook will be written by you. This will be a guide on how a person or a business can use particular techniques to increase their happiness or flourishing.
discuss how an organization can adopt positive psychology principles after reading chapters 50 through 58.
https://www.google.com/books/edition/Oxford_Handbook_of_Happiness/HwQRplZYh3AC?hl=en&gbpv=1the oxford handbook of
This page intentionally left blank
the oxford handbook of
SU S A N A . DAV I D , I L O NA B O N I W E L L ,
A M A N DA C O N L EY AY E R S
Great Clarendon Street, Oxford ox2 6dp
Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford.
It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship,
and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of
Oxford University Press in the UK and in certain other countries
© Chapter 1–17 and 19–79 Oxford University Press, 2013
© Chapter 18 Rowman and Littlefield, 2004
The moral rights of the authors have been asserted
First Published in 2013
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the
prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted
by law, by licence or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics
rights organization. Enquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the
above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the
You must not circulate this work in any other form
and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Printed and bound in Great Britain by
CPI Group (UK) Ltd, Croydon, CR0 4YY
Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the contents of this work
are as complete, accurate and-up-to-date as possible at the date of writing,
Oxford University Press is not able to give any guarantee or assurance that
such is the case. Readers are urged to take appropriately qualified medical
advice in all cases. The information in this work is intended to be useful to the
general reader, but should not be used as a means of self-diagnosis or for the
prescription of medication.
Links to third party websites are provided by Oxford in good faith and
for information only. Oxford disclaims any responsibility for the materials
contained in any third party website referenced in this work.
To Anthony and Noah: the source of my abiding happiness.
To my children, Thomas and Sophie, you fill each day with the most unexpected delights.
Amanda Conley Ayers
This page intentionally left blank
It is humbling and deeply gratifying to be asked to write the foreword to the Handbook of
Happiness. The invitation from the editors must be inspired by my country’s philosophy of
Gross National Happiness, and not any expertise on my part. Nonetheless, I thank you for
the opportunity to share my personal thoughts on some aspects of the subject.
It was my father who said, “Gross National Happiness (GNH) is more important than
Gross National Product (GNP)” in 1974. Since then, GNH has come to mean so many things.
To me it signifies simply—Development with Values—where we strive for the benefits of
economic growth and modernization while ensuring that in our drive for economic progress we do not forget to nurture that which makes us united, harmonious, and secure as
Bhutanese. Whether it is our strong community structure or our culture and heritage, our
traditional respect for the environment or the desire for a peaceful coexistence with other
nations, the duty of the Bhutanese State is to ensure that these invaluable elements contributing to the happiness and well-being of our people are protected and strengthened. Our
government must be human.
Thus, for Bhutan, Gross National Happiness is the bridge between the fundamental
values of Kindness, Equality, and Humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth.
So for me, as for all Bhutanese, building a modern literature on Happiness is important.
Not because we might be able to better experience happiness as we know it, but because the
Happiness in Gross National Happiness means much more. It is easy to measure wealth or
even the power and influence of nations. Too often, these figures are accepted so easily that
the truth of the millions affected by inequality, poverty, neglect, apathy, and despair remain
hidden and unaddressed. In identifying Happiness as a development goal, it is not being
implied that Happiness can or should become another variable to be measured. We are
simply trying to bring a more profound, humane, and deeper meaning and purpose to the
measuring of economic growth.
For individuals, pursuing true happiness implies striving towards a certain purity, a nobility of goal—some sort of perfection. It cannot arise from wrongful, harmful, or contrived
circumstances. It is not something to be achieved in solitude or for the moment. Thus, in a
nation seeking growth while creating the conditions for promoting “happiness,” it is more
likely that we will see such qualities as rule of law, good governance, technology, robust
economies, and good education combine with values of equality, equity, justice, compassion, and commitment to the welfare of fellow citizens and future generations—and with
respect for other peoples and nations and all sentient beings.
Modernization and political change have nurtured the individual’s freedom, but it has
also led to a less desirable and unconscious freeing of the individual from his obligations to
society and the greater good. As a result, certain inherent values have gone missing. The
wonderful thing about placing Happiness in development conversation is that Happiness
feeds on community and fraternity. Happiness reminds us that ultimately this is a world of
people, of families, of communities all alike—of human beings seeking the same thing.
When we grasp this universal simplicity—this sense of a shared planet and a shared fate for
those who walk on it in a common quest for happiness, well-being, and contentment—the
answer to national and global problems will come closer at hand.
Inserting Happiness into Bhutan’s pursuit of growth gives us a National Conscience guiding us towards making wise decisions for a better future. It reminds us that as we strive for
success as individuals or as a nation, we also have a responsibility to the greater good, to
future generations, to the world, and to other living beings.
I feel blessed to be born in a country that, though small and faced with great challenges,
has found in its own humanity the inspiration to think differently about growth or progress.
We do not seek to preach Gross National Happiness, but to share our thoughts, and more
importantly, to gain the wisdom of others’ experiences. So I thank you all on behalf of the
people of Bhutan, for your dedication and for the hard work that has been invested in this
book, from which we will seek to learn.
King of Bhutan
There is a growing recognition that the goals governments have typically focused on, such
as GDP, are only a means to an end, and that end is happiness. The great economist John
Maynard Keynes said this in the 1930’s, and more recently the UK’s prime minister, David
Cameron, and former French President Sarkozy’s Commission on the measurement of economic and social progress have come to the same conclusion. It is no longer sufficient to
measure economic progress; we must also consider social and environmental progress, and
we must measure subjective well-being.
Among the individual governments that have begun to consider well-being as the most
fundamental goal of human progress, Bhutan has shown extraordinary initiative. In 2011 the
country’s prime minister, Jigmi Thinley, played a key role in persuading the United Nations
to adopt a “happiness resolution”, and in April of 2012, Bhutan hosted a United Nations
“High Level Meeting on Happiness and Well-being”. I was honored to be among the participants. This meeting of fellow scholars and governmental, business, and spiritual leaders was
so well attended that it exceeded the capacity of the General Assembly room of the UN. The
entire group united around the idea of a new economic paradigm, and at the heart of this
paradigm is human happiness. It is not the ephemeral happiness that some talk about, but
rather what is described as “the deep abiding happiness that comes from living life in full
harmony with the natural world, with our communities and fellow beings” (Royal
Government of Bhutan, 2012, p. 89).
As those of us at the High Level Meeting worked to take this agenda forward, a host of
exciting conclusions emerged. The main recommendations from the final report included
the statement that “constructive and positive education [is] perhaps the most important
facilitator of the mindset necessary to support an economic paradigm based on happiness
and well-being” (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2012, p. 59).
An impressive body of research is helping us to understand the determinants of happiness
and well-being. For example, we now know that genes play a certain role in well-being, but
we also know that the early environment, which includes both parenting and education, is
profoundly important. Happiness is a skill that we can learn, and while there is evidence that
it can be learned at any stage in the life course, there is no better time to learn it than in those
There are many positive psychological interventions, and many skills related to well-being
which have been used to develop abiding happiness. One approach that has been shown to
have lasting benefits across a wide range of well-being outcomes is mindfulness training.
Mindfulness training is a secular program with roots in ancient philosophical traditions,
which focuses on awareness of moment-to-moment experiences, in the mind, in the body,
and in our immediate physical and social surroundings. Mindfulness is not just another
positive psychology or well-being intervention—it is foundational to all other approaches,
and augments their impacts. A sub-group at the UN meeting advised that we need to: “Teach
mindfulness widely to counteract the psychic hunger that causes materialism as the primary
spirituality of our time” (Royal Government of Bhutan, 2012, p. 150). This recommendation
is well supported by contemporary research, which not only shows that mindfulness has
substantial and wide-ranging benefits for well-being, but also demonstrates that training in
mindfulness enhances the effects of other interventions, such as coaching and cognitive
behavioral therapy (e.g., Spence, Cavanagh & Grant, 2008).
My own interest in well-being came from decades of research on aging. Originally I studied Alzheimer’s disease and disability in old age, gathering data from tens of thousands of
elderly people across the United Kingdom, and internationally. Because we were studying
these phenomena at the population level, we had information from people right across the
board—those who were doing badly, and those who remained in good health. I was repeatedly drawn to the large number of people who were aging well, and wondered what we might
learn from them. An important clue came from one of the truly great minds in the field of
population studies or epidemiology, Geoffrey Rose (Rose, 1992, 2008). He demonstrated
that a tiny shift in the average symptoms of a disease at the population level would lead to
major changes in both illness and exceptional health. For example, if you look at heart disease, the prevalence in the population is related to the average blood pressure in the population, or the average level of cholesterol. If you can reduce these symptoms for the average
person, there will be far fewer people who actually develop the disease, and far more people
This tells us that the risk of a disorder is not just an individual matter, based solely on
genes, experiences, or coping styles. The risk of a disorder is related to what is happening to
the population in which we live. A strategy that looks only at individuals will never succeed;
what we need is a strategy that shifts the average for a whole population towards flourishing.
We need to identify the underlying determinants of health and disorder, and change them
for everyone. In the context of happiness, we therefore need to identify the major determinants of well-being, and shift the population toward mental flourishing (Huppert, 2009;
Huppert & So, 2011)
The Oxford Handbook of Happiness is an important resource to help us move in this direction. The breadth of topics in the handbook surpasses what has traditionally been done in
positive psychology. Furthermore, the cross-national perspectives found in this book will
challenge our assumptions. Well-being is not the same for all people or all nations. This is
important because when developing interventions, we need to think about the particular
group for whom the interventions are being developed. The Handbook offers a nuanced
approach to what well-being is all about, how we need to measure it, and what changes we
are looking for. The scholar or practitioner dipping into this book is fortunate in gaining
access to a marvelous wealth of knowledge and perspective in this field. He or she will have
the opportunity to further the agenda that more and more people recognize as underpinning this endeavor: the achievement of deep, abiding happiness.
Huppert, F. A. (2009). A new approach to reducing disorder and improving well-being.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 4, 108–111.
Huppert, F. A. & So, T.T.C (2011). Flourishing across Europe: application of a new conceptual
framework for defining well-being. Social Indicators Research, (Published online 15
December 2011, DOI: 10.1007/s11205-011-9966-7).
Rose, G. (1992). The strategy of preventive medicine. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Rose, G. (2008). Rose’s strategy of preventive medicine (2nd ed., rev.). Oxford, England: Oxford
Royal Government of Bhutan (2012). The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and
Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm. New York: The Permanent Mission of the
Kingdom of Bhutan to the United Nations. Thimphu: Office of the Prime Minister.
Spence, G.B., Cavanagh, M.J. & Grant, A.M. (2008). The integration of mindfulness training
and health coaching: An exploratory study. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory,
Research and Practice, 1(2), 1–19.
This page intentionally left blank
This text is a testament to the efforts of many people. For each of these 79 chapters, numerous
steps were required to generate the knowledge presented: ideas were fostered; grants were
written; research was painstakingly conducted and replicated; and scientific papers were
written, revised, and published. Much of this work was accomplished over many years by
our expert chapter contributors, each an authority in his or her respective field. It is to these
exemplary individuals that I extend my greatest thanks and appreciation. Without your hard
work, the science of human happiness would not exist.
From beginning to end, the team of professionals at Oxford University Press was an outstanding partner in taking this project from proposal to reality. Martin Baum’s idea of creating an end-to-end, cross-disciplinary volume on human happiness was both timely and
insightful. Charlotte Green, Abigail Stanley, and the book team graciously facilitated every
aspect of the volume with the highest level of attention to detail. Thank you to all of you.
This book would not have been published were it not for the rare combination of outstanding editing skills, organization, and social nous shown by Christina Congleton. A very
special thank you is also due to the other Evidence Based Psychology team members:
Jennifer Lee, Kimbette Fenol, Karen Monteiro, and Anthony Samir: your stellar support for
this complex project made all the difference. A strong vote of thanks is also due to our many
clients: your understanding that happiness research impacts on many facets of your own
work provided the inspiration and impetus for this book.
The thought leaders at the Institute of Coaching—Carol Kauffman, Margaret Moore,
Ruth Ann Harnisch, Laurel Doggett, and the rest of the team—are dedicated to using evidence to positively impact human experience. Thank you for the inspiration, foresight, and
insight that you continue to provide, and for your tremendous contribution to our field
My mother, Veronica, my late father, Sidney, and Christopher, Madeleine, Liezel, Alex,
Sam, Charlotte, Moshe, Robyn, and Richard have taught me much about joy, gratitude,
perseverance, and acceptance. Anthony Samir, my husband and life partner for almost two
decades: my deep happiness has its roots in you. Thank you. Noah David: you were born
during the editing of this book. Your joy, sense of wonder, and unfolding understanding of
the world redoubled my commitment to this work. You affirmed my conviction that happiness research is relevant to our daily lives. Its lessons teach us how to meaningfully enrich
life for ourselves, our children, and their children to follow
Susan David, Ph.D.
This page intentionally left blank
List of Contributors
List of Abbreviations
Susan A. David, Ilona Boniwell, and Amanda Conley Ayers
SE C T ION I P SYC HOL O G IC A L A P P ROAC H E S
TO HA P P I N E S S
Section Editor: Joar Vittersø
2. Introduction to Psychological Approaches to Happiness
3. The Broaden-and-Build Theory of Positive Emotions: Form,
Function, and Mechanisms
Anne M. Conway, Michele M. Tugade, Lahnna I. Catalino,
and Barbara L. Fredrickson
4. The Endowment–Contrast Model: A Lens for Happiness Research
Dale Griffin and Richard Gonzalez
5. Past, Present, and Future of Flow
Antonella Delle Fave
6. Emotionally Intelligent Happiness
Alia J. Crum and Peter Salovey
7. Religious Engagement and Well-being
David G. Myers
8. Positive Psychological Experiences and Psychopathology:
A Self-Regulatory Perspective
Patty Ferssizidis, Todd B. Kashdan, Rachel A. Marquart,
and Michael F. Steger
9. The Rewards of Happiness
Katherine Jacobs Bao and Sonja Lyubomirsky
10. Happiness Experienced: The Science of Subjective Well-being
William Pavot and Ed Diener
SE C T ION I I P SYC HOL O G IC A L
DE F I N I T ION S OF HA P P I N E S S
Section Editor: Joar Vittersø
11. Introduction to Psychological Definitions of Happiness
12. Notions of the Good Life
13. Subjective Well-being
Felicity F. Miao, Minkyung Koo, and Shigehiro Oishi
14. Measuring Happiness and Subjective Well-being
Robert A. Cummins
16. What Makes for a Life Well Lived? Autonomy and its Relation
to Full Functioning and Organismic Wellness
Christopher P. Niemiec and Richard M. Ryan
17. Functional Well-being: Happiness as Feelings, Evaluations,
SE C T ION I I I P H I L O S OP H IC A L
A P P ROAC H E S TO HA P P I N E S S
Section Editor: James O. Pawelski
18. Introduction to Philosophical Approaches to Happiness
James O. Pawelski
19. The Pursuit of Happiness in History
Darrin M. McMahon
20. Happiness in Early Chinese Thought
Philip J. Ivanhoe
21. Continental Contributions to our Understanding of Happiness
Emmy van Deurzen
22. The Seductions of Happiness
Raymond Angelo Belliotti
23. The Nature and Significance of Happiness
Daniel M. Haybron
24. Philosophical Methods in Happiness Research
25. Happiness and Its Opposites
James O. Pawelski
SE C T ION I V SP I R I T UA L A P P ROAC H E S
TO HA P P I N E S S
Section Editor: Jane Henry
26. Introduction to Spiritual Approaches to Happiness
27. A Buddhist View of Happiness
28. Relational Buddhism: An Integrative Psychology of Happiness
amidst Existential Suffering
G. T. Maurits Kwee
29. Well-being from the Hindu/Sanātana Dharma Perspective
Kiran Kumar K. Salagame
30. Flourishing through Meditation and Mindfulness
31. Heaven on Earth: Beneficial Effects of Sanctification for Individual
and Interpersonal Well-being
Annette Mahoney, Kenneth I. Pargament, and
Krystal M. Hernandez
32. Quieting the Mind and Low Arousal Routes to Happiness
SE C T ION V HA P P I N E S S A N D S O C I E T Y
Section Editor: Sam Thompson
33. Introduction to Happiness and Society
34. Economics and the Study of Individual Happiness
Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer
35. Comparing Well-being Across Nations: Conceptual and
William Tov and Evelyn W. M. Au
36. The Geography of Happiness
Dimitris Ballas and Danny Dorling
37. Well-being in Consumer Societies
Aaron Ahuvia and Elif Izberk-Bilgin
38. Well-being and Sustainable Development
Sam Thompson, Nic Marks, and Tim Jackson
39. Well-being and Public Policy
SE C T ION V I P O SI T I V E E D U C AT ION
Section Editors: Ilona Boniwell and Nash Popovic
40. Introduction to Positive Education
41. Education and Well-being
42. Should Education Have Happiness Lessons?
43. Well-being and Resilience in Education
Toni Noble and Helen McGrath
44. Happiness in the Classroom
Jennifer M. Fox Eades, Carmel Proctor, and Martin Ashley
45. Applying Happiness and Well-being Research to the Teaching
and Learning Process
46. Resilience Education
Jane E. Gillham, Rachel M. Abenavoli, Steven M. Brunwasser,
Mark Linkins, Karen J. Reivich, and Martin E. P. Seligman
47. Teaching for Wisdom
Robert J. Sternberg
48. Going Beyond the Accidental: Happiness, Education, and the
Wellington College Experience
49. Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School
Mathew A. White
SE C T ION V I I HA P P I N E S S A N D
ORG A N I Z AT ION S
Section Editors: Arran Caza and Kim S. Cameron
50. An Introduction to Happiness and Organizations
Arran Caza and Kim S. Cameron
51. Virtuousness as a Source of Happiness in Organizations
Kim S. Cameron and Arran Caza
52. How Work Shapes Well-being
Brianna Barker Caza and Amy Wrzesniewski
53. Work Design and Happiness: An Active, Reciprocal Perspective
Ben J. Searle and Sharon K. Parker
54. Jobs and Job-Holders: Two Sources of Happiness and Unhappiness
55. Managing Psychological Capital in Organizations: Cognitive,
Affective, Conative, and Social Mechanisms of Happiness
Carolyn M. Youssef and Fred Luthans
56. Reflected Best Self Engagement at Work: Positive Identity,
Alignment, and the Pursuit of Vitality and Value Creation
Laura Morgan Roberts
57. Encouraging Employee Happiness
Thomas A. Wright
58. Executive Well-being
James Campbell Quick and Jonathan D. Quick
SE C T ION V I I I R E L AT ION SH I P S
A N D HA P P I N E S S
Section Editor: Melikşah Demir
59. Introduction to Relationships and Happiness
60. Close Relationships and Happiness
Shimon Saphire-Bernstein and Shelley E. Taylor
61. Adult Attachment and Happiness: Individual Differences in the
Experience and Consequences of Positive Emotions
Mario Mikulincer and Phillip R. Shaver
62. Perceived Social Support and Happiness: The Role of Personality
and Relational Processes
63. Friendship and Happiness
Meli.kşah Demi.r, Haley Orthel, and Adrian Keith Andelin
SE C T ION I X DE V E L OP M E N T, S TA B I L I T Y,
A N D C HA N G E OF HA P P I N E S S
Section Editor: Kate Hefferon
64. Introduction to Development, Stability, and Change of Happiness
65. An Evolutionary Psychological Perspective on Happiness
Sarah E. Hill, Danielle J. DelPriore, and Brett Major
66. Set-Point Theory May Now Need Replacing: Death of a Paradigm?
67. Variety is the Spice of Happiness: The Hedonic Adaptation
Kennon M. Sheldon, Julia Boehm, and Sonja Lyubomirsky
68. Promotion and Protection of Positive Mental Health: Towards
Complete Mental Health in Human Development
Corey L. M. Keyes
69. Post-traumatic Growth: Eudaimonic Happiness in the Aftermath
Stephen Joseph and Kate Hefferon
70. Creating a Stable Architectural Framework of Existence: Proposing
a Model of Lifelong Meaning
Michael F. Steger, Anna Beeby, Samantha Garrett, and
Todd B. Kashdan
SE C T ION X HA P P I N E S S I N T E RV E N T ION S
Section Editors: Gordon B. Spence and Suzy Green
71. Introduction to Happiness Interventions
Gordon B. Spence and Suzy Green
72. Increasing Happiness in the General Population: Empirically
Acacia C. Parks, Stephen M. Schueller, and Arber Tasimi
73. Positive Psychology in Practice: Positive Psychotherapy
74. Happiness in Valued Living: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
as a Model for Change
75. Coaching and Well-being: A Brief Review of Existing Evidence,
Relevant Theory, and Implications for Practitioners
Gordon B. Spence and Anthony M. Grant
76. Mindfulness and Cultivating Well-being in Older Adults
Laura M. Hsu and Ellen J. Langer
77. Well-being Therapy: Theoretical Background, Clinical Implications,
and Future Directions
Giovanni A. Fava and Chiara Ruini
78. The Collaborative Recovery Model: Developing Positive Institutions
to Facilitate Recovery in Enduring Mental Illness
Lindsay G. Oades, Trevor P. Crowe, and Frank P. Deane
79. Conclusion: The Future of Happiness
Susan A. David, Ilona Boniwell, and Amanda Conley Ayers
This page intentionally left blank
List of Contributors
Aaron Ahuvia Department of Management Studies, University of Michigan–Dearborn,
Dearborn, MI, USA
Rachel M. Abenavoli Human Development & Family Studies, Pennsylvania State
University, University Park, PA, USA
Adrian Keith Andelin Department of Psychology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff,
Martin Ashley Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, UK
Evelyn W. M. Au School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University, Singapore
Dimitris Ballas Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Anna Beeby Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
Raymond Angelo Belliotti SUNY Fredonia, New York, NY, USA
Julia Boehm Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of
Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
Ilona Boniwell School of Psychology, The University of East London, London, UK; and
Positran, Paris, France
Steven M. Brunwasser Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
Kim S. Cameron Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and School of Education,
Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Lahnna I. Catalino Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill,
Arran Caza Department of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University,
Brianna Barker Caza Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, USA
Amanda Conley Ayers Evidence Based Psychology, Cambridge, MA, USA
Anne M. Conway School of Social Work, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Trevor P. Crowe Illawarra Institute for Mental Health, University of Wollongong, NSW,
Alia J. Crum Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
list of contributors
Robert A. Cummins School of Psychology, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, Burwood,
Susan A. David Institute of Coaching, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA; Department of
Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA; and Evidence Based Psychology,
Cambridge, MA, USA
Frank P. Deane Illawarra Institute for Mental Health and School of Psychology, University
of Wollongong, NSW, Australia
Antonella Delle Fave Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Cliniche “Luigi Sacco”,
Università degli Studi di Milano, Milano, Italy
Danielle J. DelPriore Department of Psychology, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth,
Melikşah Demir Department of Psychology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ,
Ed Diener Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Champaign, IL; and The Gallup Organization, NE, USA
Danny Dorling Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Jennifer M. Fox Eades Department of Education, Edge Hill University, Macclesfield, UK
Giovanni A. Fava Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Italy
Patty Ferssizidis George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA
Barbara L. Fredrickson University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Bruno S. Frey Department of Economics, University of Zurich, Switzerland
Samantha Garrett Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO,
Jane E. Gillham Psychology Department, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, USA;
and Psychology Department and Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania,
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Richard Gonzalez Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI,
Anthony M. Grant Coaching Psychology Unit, School of Psychology, University of Sydney,
Suzy Green The Positivity Institute, Sydney, Australia
Dale Griffin Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC,
Louise Hayes Orygen Youth Health Research Centre, The University of Melbourne,
Daniel M. Haybron Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO, USA
list of contributors
Bruce Headey Faculty of Business and Economics, Melbourne Institute, Melbourne, VIC,
Kate Hefferon School of Psychology, University of East London, London, UK
Jane Henry Applied Psychology, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
Krystal M. Hernandez Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University,
Bowling Green, OH, USA
Sarah E. Hill Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX, USA
Laura M. Hsu School of Education, Merrimack College, North Andover, MA, USA
Veronika Huta School of Psychology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
Philip J. Ivanhoe City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong
Elif Izberk-Bilgin Department of Management Studies, University of Michigan–
Dearborn, Dearborn, MI, USA
Tim Jackson Centre for Environmental Strategy, University of Surrey, Guilford, UK
Katherine Jacobs Bao Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside,
Stephen Joseph Psychology, Health & Social Care, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of
Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
Todd B. Kashdan Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA,
Corey L. M. Keyes Department of Sociology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA
Minkyung Koo Department of Business Administration, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign, Champaign, IL, USA
G.T. Maurits Kwee University of Flores, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Institute for Relational
Buddhism, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Taos Institute, USA
Brian Lakey Psychology Department, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI, USA
Ellen J. Langer Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
Mark Linkins VIA Institute on Character, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Fred Luthans Department of Management, University of Nebraska–Lincoln, Lincoln, NE,
Sonja Lyubomirsky Department of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, CA,
Helen McGrath Faculty of Arts and Education, School of Education, Deakin University,
Darrin M. McMahon Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA
list of contributors
Laura McInerney Positive Psychology, London, UK
Annette Mahoney Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling
Green, OH, USA
Brett Major Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX, USA
Peter Malinowski Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
Nic Marks nef (the new economics foundation), London, UK
Rachel A. Marquart Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA,
Felicity F. Miao Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA,
Mario Mikulincer School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel
Ian Morris Wellington College, Berkshire, UK
Geoff Mulgan The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA),
David G. Myers Department of Psychology, Hope College, Holland, MI, USA
Christopher P. Niemiec Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology,
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA
Toni Noble School of Educational Leadership, Faculty of Education, Australian Catholic
Lindsay G. Oades Australian Institute of Business Wellbeing, Sydney Business School,
University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia
Shigehiro Oishi Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA,
Haley Orthel Department of Psychology, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ,
Kenneth I. Pargament Department of Psychology Bowling Green State University, Bowling
Green, OH, USA
Sharon K. Parker UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia, Crawley,
Acacia C. Parks Department of Psychology, Hiram College, Hiram, OH, USA
William Pavot Department of Social Science, Southwest Minnesota State University,
Marshall, MN, USA
James O. Pawelski Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia,
Nash Popovic University of East London, London, UK
list of contributors
Carmel Proctor Positive Psychology Research Centre, Channel Islands
James Campbell Quick Goolsby Leadership Academy, The University of Texas at Arlington,
Arlington, TX, USA; and Lancaster University Management School, Lancashire, UK
Jonathan D. Quick Management Sciences for Health, Cambridge, MA; and Harvard
Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA
Tayyab Rashid University of Toronto Scarborough, ON, Canada
Karen J. Reivich Psychology Department and Positive Psychology Center, University of
Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA USA
Matthieu Ricard Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling, Kathmandu, Nepal
Laura Morgan Roberts Antioch University, Yellow Springs, OH, USA
Chiara Ruini University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Richard M. Ryan Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, University of
Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA
Kiran Kumar K. Salagame Department of Studies in Psychology, University of Mysore,
Peter Salovey Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
Shimon Saphire-Bernstein Department of Psychology, University of California at Los
Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Stephen M. Schueller Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco,
Ben J. Searle Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW,
Martin E. P. Seligman Psychology Department and Positive Psychology Center, University
of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
Phillip R. Shaver Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, USA
Kennon M. Sheldon Department of Psychology, University of Missouri–Columbia,
Columbia, MO, USA
Gordon B. Spence Australian Institute of Business Wellbeing, Sydney Business School,
University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia
Michael F. Steger Department of Psychology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO,
USA; School of Behavioural Sciences, North-West University, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Robert J. Sternberg Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, USA
Alois Stutzer Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Arber Tasimi Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
list of contributors
Shelley E. Taylor Department of Psychology, University of California at Los Angeles, Los
Valerie Tiberius Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN,
Sam Thompson Institute for Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool,
William Tov School of Social Sciences, Singapore Management University, Singapore
Michele M. Tugade Department of Psychology, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, USA
Emmy van Deurzen Middlesex University and the New School of Psychotherapy and
Ruut Veenhoven Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; North-West University,
Joar Vittersø Department of Psychology, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
Carolyn M. Youssef College of Business, Bellevue University, Bellevue, NE, USA
Peter Warr Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
John White Institute of Education, London, UK
Mathew A. White Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne,
Carlton, VIC, Australia
Thomas A. Wright Fordham University, New York, NY, USA
Amy Wrzesniewski Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA
List of Abbreviations
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
Beck Depression Inventory
Collaborative on Academic Social and Emotional Learning
cognitive behavioral therapy
consumer culture theory
Collaborative Goal Technology
Clinical Interview for Depression
Collaborative Recovery Model
disability life-adjusted year
diastolic blood pressure
Day Reconstruction Method
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition
Experience Sampling Method
empirically supported self-help
functional well-being approach
generalized anxiety disorder
gross domestic product
gross national happiness
gross national product
Gallup World Poll
Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale
hedonic adaptation prevention
homeostatically protected mood
intrinsically motivated orientation
Life Journey Enhancement Tools
list of abbreviations
Life Satisfaction Approach
mindfulness-based cognitive therapy
mindfulness-based stress reduction
major depressive disorder
major depression episode
mental health promotion and protection
National Study of Midlife Development in the United States
new economics foundation
Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills
Office of National Statistics
Positive and Negative Affect Schedule
Personal Development Education
positive organizational behavior
positive organizational scholarship
Penn Resiliency Program
Personal and Social Education
Post-traumatic Growth Inventory
post-traumatic stress disorder
Personal Well-being Index
reflected best self
relational frame theory
relational regulation theory
social anxiety disorder
systolic blood pressure
Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning
social and emotional learning
sustainable happiness model
Social Relations Model
standard social science model
Satisfaction With Life Scale
Values In Action
World Database of Happiness
susan a. david 1,3 , ilona boniwell 2,4 , and
amanda conley ayers 3
1 Harvard Medical School, USA; 2The University of East London, UK; 3Evidence Based
Psychology, USA; 4Positran, Paris, France
The Rationale for The Oxford
Handbook of Happiness
In front of you is a product of more than 3 years of work, decades of research, and many
centuries of thinking. In the opening speech to the first World Congress of Positive
Psychology held in Philadelphia, USA, in 2009, the founder of the positive psychology field
Professor Martin Seligman called for the discipline to expand its boundaries and transform into “positive social science,” uniting psychologists, economists, sociologists, policymakers, philosophers, educators, health and business researchers and practitioners, and
thinkers in the fields of religion and spirituality. The Oxford Handbook of Happiness is one of
the first publications worldwide to follow this call. It is intended as the definitive text for
scholars, researchers, teachers, and practitioners interested and invested in the study and
practice of human happiness.
We propose that the study of happiness is at the nexus of four major scientific developments:
1. The growing field of positive psychology, which researches the conditions that make
2. Advances in the biological and affective sciences which have contributed to the
understanding of positive emotions.
3. Positive organizational scholarship (POS), an emerging discipline aimed at investigating and fostering excellence in organizations.
4. Findings from across research domains indicating that gross domestic product (GDP)
and similar traditional markers of economic and societal well-being are insufficient.
Let us consider these in turn.
1. While much research had occurred prior, 1998 brought with it the establishment of
the field of positive psychology or the science of positive aspects of human life, such as
happiness, well-being, and flourishing. It is often summarized in the words of its
founders, Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as the “scientific study of
optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow
individuals and communities to thrive” (2000, p. 5).
Positive psychologists claim that psychology as a whole has more often than not
focused on the shortcomings of individuals as compared with their potentials. Whilst
this claim may or may not be true for all areas of psychology (for example, cognitive
psychology studies the internal mental processes of often perfectly well-functioning
individuals), the positive psychology approach places an explicit emphasis on the
potential of individuals and on researching factors that make life worth living.
Nowadays, positive psychology is a rapidly developing field that has helped to dramatically reshape our understanding of happiness as its central phenomenon of interest
through the development of a number of reliable measures and an overall increase in
associated research outputs.
2. It is hard to dispute the point that a truly objective measure of happiness would probably avoid subjective accounts, and rely instead on independent biological or neuropsychological assessments. Whilst it is not yet possible to study our cognitive evaluations
of well-being (life satisfaction) using imaging technologies, considerable advances
have been made in our understanding of brain mechanisms that underlie affective style.
For example, using magnetic resonance imaging technologies in a series of studies,
Davidson (2005) investigated which areas of the brain are active at the time of processing different types of stimuli. These studies have demonstrated that positive affect is
processed in the left prefrontal cortex and amygdala, areas stipulated to be both rich in
dopamine receptors and essential to cognitive processing and flexibility, whilst negative
affect is processed in the right prefrontal cortex. Neuropsychological studies have further demonstrated that mindfulness meditation produces changes in brain activation
associated with reductions in negative affect and increases in positive affect. These and
similar advances signal considerable hope for future developments in the field.
3. POS is a sister field to positive psychology with its focus on rigorous organizational
research and careful studies of organization-based interventions. Concerned broadly
with organizational flourishing, it addresses human excellence, resilience, and healing, organizational welfare, potentialities, possibilities, and affirmative bias. In a way
POS is an umbrella term, bringing together a wide variety of topics, methods of
research, and organizational processes, originating in the fields of psychology, sociology, and organizational behavior. The unifying focus is the enablement of extraordinary effectiveness and exceptional performance in organizations through the
application of research-based principles, such as the identification of strengths, fostering virtuousness, and facilitation of elevating factors.
4. GDP is a limited measure of societal progress, not only because it does not capture
the emotional aspects of individual lives, but also because it is an imperfect measure
of economic well-being (due to omissions of the value of home productions, the
value-added impact of public services, and the distribution of income). For several
years, since the introduction of the Gross National Happiness Index by the government of Bhutan, many countries around the world have begun to develop happiness
In the UK, from 2010 onwards the Office for National Statistics was charged with
developing a new measure of national well-being, bringing together a set of indicators
that reflect the social and environmental/sustainability aspects of society, including
subjective happiness. In order to understand what it is that matters most to people in
the UK, the first step in the measure development was to open the question to a
national debate that generated 175 events involving 7250 people and a total of 34,000
responses (some of which were from groups and national organizations, such as the
British Psychological Society, thus representing tens of thousands more responders).
The next step is the development of a national framework, informed by responses to
the national debate, expert opinion, researchers and academics working in the area,
international initiatives around happiness, and an advisory forum (Matheson, 2011).
The international trend towards considering the social and economic dimensions
of well-being shows that UK is not the only country to take steps in this direction. On
the initiative of President Sarkozy of France, a commission was recently created to
report on the measurement of economic performance and social progress, looking
explicitly to the assessment of well-being (Stiglitz, Sen, & Fitoussi, 2009). In Italy, the
Statistical Institute in collaboration with the National Council of Economy and Labour
are jointly taking forward the question of measurement of “sustainable progress.” Both
Canada and Australia are making steps in the same direction. The government of
Bhutan, however, can still be considered the world leader through its pioneering work
with the United Nations to develop a reference framework for a new happiness-based
economic paradigm aimed at sustainability.
The Multiple Definitions of Happiness
For the purposes of this volume we chose to consider happiness in its broadest sense, treating it as an umbrella concept for notions such as well-being, subjective well-being, psychological well-being, hedonism, eudaimonia, health, flourishing, and so on. In doing this, we
hope to achieve a broad conceptualization that is theoretically sound and practically useful.
Although these terms overlap to some extent and are often used interchangeably, we can
also identify some differences between them. Within the psychological literature the
term happiness is seen as a common-sense, lay representation of well-being. The second
meaning of this term refers to a so-called hedonic or pleasure-centered aspect of well-being.
Flourishing, on the other hand, refers to an aspect of well-being concerned with growth and
self-transcendence (going beyond oneself in pursuit of a meaningful action). Well-being
itself is an umbrella term for a number of concepts related to human wellness. It encompasses a range of specific psychological definitions, such as subjective well-being (SWB).
The notion of SWB is currently the dominant conception of well-being in psychological
literature. SWB is considered a multidimensional construct, with several distinct but related
aspects treated as a single theoretical construct. SWB encompasses how people evaluate
their own lives in terms of both affective (how we feel) and cognitive (how we think) components (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). The affective component refers to both moods
and emotions associated with the experiencing of momentary events. The cognitive component, represented by life satisfaction, relates to the way individuals perceive their lives and
refers to a discrepancy between the present situation and what is thought to be the ideal or
deserved standard. Life satisfaction is conceptually similar to the way Veenhoven (1996)
defines happiness as the degree to which individuals judge their lives favorably.
Most current research places happiness/well-being within one of two traditions: the
hedonic and the eudaimonic. The hedonic approach (mentioned earlier) defines it as the
pursuit of positive emotion, seeking maximum pleasure and a pleasant life overall with
instant gratification. The eudaimonic approach looks beyond this, and is concerned with
change, growth, and breaking homeostasis. Waterman (1993) defines eudaimonia as “an
ethical theory that calls people to recognize and to live in accordance with the daimon or
true self ” (p. 678). Peterson, Park, and Seligman (2005, p. 26) suggest that “uniting eudaimonic emphases is the premise that people should develop what is best within themselves
and then use these skills and talents in the service of greater goods.” Ryff ’s eudaimonic
model of psychological well-being is arguably the best known in the eudaimonic tradition. It
contains six factors: self-acceptance, positive relations with others, autonomy, environmental mastery, purpose in life, and personal growth (Ryff & Keyes, 1995).
Amongst other related terms, health, according to the World Health Organization (1946,
p. 100), is a state of complete physical, mental, and social (subjective) well-being and not
merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Quality of life is proposed as the degree to which a
person enjoys the important possibilities of his or her life, including aspects of “being,”
“belonging,” and “becoming” (Renwick & Brown, 1996), whilst engagement can be defined
as an involvement with and enthusiasm for work (Kahn, 1990).
While a consensus is emerging in some areas of happiness scholarship, in others there is
robust debate and a divergence of opinion. The breadth of this volume is representative of
the range of influential scholarship in the field and is therefore inclusive of conceptualizations that are given serious consideration in the academic literature.
The Scope and Structure of the Volume
The Oxford Handbook of Happiness addresses a need for a coherent, multidisciplinary, accessible text on the current state-of-the-art in happiness research and evidence-based practice.
The distinguishing features of this handbook are:
• Up-to-date information incorporating recent developments in the emerging field of
• A comprehensive volume on happiness including the different components of subjective well-being, life satisfaction, and eudaimonic well-being.
• A multidisciplinary perspective drawing from leading contributors in the areas of psychology, evolution, education, health, philosophy, spirituality, business, coaching,
counseling, social policy, and economics.
• An inclusive scope of theoretical underpinnings, measurement, and development.
• A strong applied element integrated into many chapters of the book.
The volume is divided into ten sections that focus on psychological, philosophical, spiritual,
and developmental approaches to happiness; happiness in society, education, organizations,
and relationships; and definitions of and interventions for happiness. Each section is edited
by a section editor who is a specialist in the relevant field of study. However, some of the topics cross several sections. For example, spirituality is present not only in Section IV, but also
in Sections I and III. Philosophy is prominent in Sections III and IV. Despite not having an
explicitly associated section, history runs through many parts of the volume, including
Sections II, III, IV, V, and VI.
The handbook is comprised of 79 chapters including the introductory and concluding
pieces. The number of chapters is reflective of the breath and depth of happiness as a field of
scholarship. We have aimed for a gold standard in our choice of contributors, both in terms
of a strong empirical basis, wherever relevant, and/or robust intellectual scholarship. Ed
Diener, Joar Vitterso, Peter Salovey, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Richard Ryan, Matthieu Ricard,
Robert Sternberg, and Martin Seligman, are amongst many distinguished section editors
and chapter contributors.
Importantly, despite the multidisciplinary nature of the volume, there is an obvious preponderance of contributions by people with training in psychology. We believe that since
happiness at its core is an internal human phenomenon, and psychology is the study of such
phenomena, the relatively larger weighting of contributions by psychologists is not disproportionate. Included also is the scholarship that extends the discussion of happiness beyond
the intrapersonal emotional and behavioral context and interfaces with relationships, society, systems, education, organizations, and philosophical approaches, providing what we
believe is true and appropriately weighted multidisciplinary coverage of the area.
Renowned Norwegian scholar Joar Vitterso plays a pivotal role in the handbook as editor
of two sections. The first of these, “Psychological Approaches to Happiness,” is concerned
with the impact of sophisticated methodology and advances in conceptual understanding
on the science of happiness as approached from the psychological perspective. It provides
an in-depth overview of happiness theories, measures, and correlates. From positive emotions and the impact of emotional intelligence on functional behavior and subsequently
happiness, it also considers happiness from the point of view of cognition and decisionmaking. It further explores happiness as flow, and contradictions in the impact of religiosity
on well-being as well as in the outcomes of happiness.
In Professor Vitterso’s second section—“Psychological Definitions of Happiness”—the
focus is on definitions of happiness. This starts with an excursion into the domain of philosophy and discusses how the Ancient Greek and Utilitarian notions of happiness underlie the
definitions studied by psychologists today. The first chapter unites the multiple happiness
definitions under a broad umbrella of quality of life, arranging them into a fourfold scheme
that is also mapped with biological taxonomies. The following two chapters explore the concept of subjective well-being, the major scientific representation of a common sense happiness concept. From then on, the section explores further definitions of happiness, ranging
from eudaimonic well-being and the concept of a fully-functioning person, through to an
integrative functional well-being model developed by Vitterso himself.
The “Philosophical Approaches to Happiness” section offers multiple perspectives on
happiness, escaping a common bias towards Aristotelian and Utilitarian viewpoints. The
two first historical overviews of happiness in early Western and Chinese traditions demonstrate, amongst other points, that these perspectives have changed dramatically throughout history and depending on cultural contexts. An analysis of more recent continental
philosophical thought coming from the existential tradition is complemented by modern
philosophical reflections on the subject. Another important contribution to this section
concerns philosophical methods in happiness research. The editor of this section, James
Pawelski, who is also the director of education at the Positive Psychology Center at the
University of Pennsylvania, contributes a chapter on the opposites of different conceptions
of happiness, keeping in line with the critical approach of the whole section.
A section on “Spiritual Approaches to Happiness” is a rare find in the academic well-being
literature and is a valuable and worthwhile addition to the volume. The editor, Jane Henry,
an applied and academic psychologist working in the area of adult development, has selected
chapters that draw on the Eastern religious and philosophical conceptions of happiness,
with their emphasis on contentment and being at one with the universe. Two chapters
explore the Buddhist understanding of happiness as a state of mind, interpersonal positive
emotions, and the place of the individual in the world. Two chapters examine similarities
and differences between psychological and spiritual approaches to the subject matter. Other
chapters focus on different strategies derived from spiritual traditions (mindfulness, meditation, relaxation, silence, acceptance, and commitment therapy), their implementation,
and limitations of this implementation in the Western world.
The next section, “Happiness and Society,” is edited by one of the leading scientists in the
area of public policy, Sam Thompson, a co-author of the Happy Planet Index (Abdallah,
Thompson, Michaelson, Marks, & Steuer, 2009). It takes us another step away from the
world of psychology into the domain of economics and policy-making, tackling the subject
of happiness at a societal level. It traverses the Easterlin paradox, cross-cultural comparisons in
happiness levels and the extent to which these follow the GDP trends, a deconstruction of
happiness of the Danes, geographical influences on happiness, the impact of consumerism,
and using happiness findings to build a sustainable society. This section is a call to governments across the world to introduce and critically test policies aimed at increasing well-being.
Happiness and education are brought together by the second editor of this handbook,
Ilona Boniwell in the “Positive Education” section. This presents the subject from historical,
philosophical, educational, and psychological perspectives. Raising questions about the
purpose of education and whether education may need happiness lessons at all, the section
considers how happiness and other contributing variables (e.g., resilience, wisdom, flow)
can be fostered in the classroom. In addition, one fundamental issue is raised and addressed
throughout the section—whether so-called happiness lessons should be timetabled, offered
through cross-curricula means or developed through an overall school ethos. The section is
somewhat unusual is that it offers two extended case studies, that of Wellington College in
the UK and Geelong Grammar School in Australia. Both are pioneers in introducing happiness education, albeit based on different approaches.
The seventh section, “Happiness and Organizations,” discusses happiness from the perspective of POS. Section editors—distinguished organizational psychologists Arran Caza
and Kim Cameron—point out in their introduction that although organizational studies
have largely been oriented to positive outcomes, happiness per se is a relatively new area of
focus in organizational research and practice. However, rather than naively celebrating
these new happiness lenses, they note the importance of achieving a flexible balance between
positivity and negativity in organizational interventions identifying, for example, the benefits of negative feedback on performance. The section reviews the wealth of work in this
area, ranging from chapters on virtues, job design, psychological capital, best self, and health
in organizations through to sources of happiness amongst executives and the complexity of
evaluating the impact of work on happiness from various perspectives.
Whilst much of happiness research has focused on intrapersonal factors, the section on
“Relationships and Happiness” addresses the interpersonal nature of happiness. Grounded
in the controversial debate on the centrality of relationships to human happiness, with the
opinions and research findings ranging from essential (Diener & Seligman, 2002) to overstated (Lucas & Dyrenforth, 2006), section editor Melikşah Demir navigates us through
current issues to future research questions. The picture is far from straightforward: marital
quality is a stronger correlate of happiness than marital status, the quality of friendships is
more important than their number, and psychological consequences of positive emotions
are moderated by attachment orientation.
The subsequent section edited by Kate Hefferon takes a life-course perspective on the
“Development, Stability, and Change of Happiness.” The first chapter after the introduction
evaluates barriers to happiness imposed by evolution and offers possible clues as to how
these can be overcome. Returning once again to the acclaimed Easterlin paradox, this time
from a critical perspective, the next chapter challenges the proposed unchangeability of happiness over one’s lifetime. The following piece discusses psychological strategies to prevent hedonic adaptation. The section goes on to consider the concepts of positive mental health,
post-traumatic growth, and lifelong meaning from the perspective of eudaimonic happiness.
Applying research to practice is the explicit focus of the final section, “Happiness Interventions.” Coaching researchers and practitioners Gordon Spence and Suzy Green bring
together a fascinating selection of chapters that consider how happiness and well-being can
be increased, carefully examining the complex effects of targeted interventions, most of
which have been revealed through randomized controlled trials. Chapters range from those
addressing happiness interventions in the general population and mental health patients
(through positive psychotherapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, well-being therapy,
mindfulness, and a collaborative recovery framework) to empirical evidence for coaching to
Whilst many similar topics have already been touched upon in existing edited volumes,
many of the chapters in the handbook can be considered truly unique, including, but not
limited to, those on psychopathology and happiness, philosophical methods in happiness
research, interpersonal positive emotions, exploration of Chinese philosophical thought on
the subject, evolutionary approaches to happiness, and multiple chapters on eudaimonic
There are times when happiness appears overrated—when evaluating multiple reincarnations of smilies, glancing through yet another magazine article on ten steps to happiness,
reading a thoughtful critique of the concept, or even in conducting yet another—after midnight—edit of this volume. Sometimes though, we wake up in the morning with the yearning for happiness. This usually happens in the absence of the corresponding affect, when the
awakening does not bring with it the expected freshness of joy. Then happiness becomes
important, due to the very absence of it. And then it becomes crystal clear that we can suffocate the yearning under the pillow, we can ignore it if we wish, and minimize the importance
all we like, but when the happiness is not there, we miss it dearly. When asked what we would
most like for our children, we respond instinctively “to be happy,” or when a person we are
with tells us “I am not happy with you,” we know where the relationship is heading. Whether
we choose it or not, happiness is a fundamental part of our existence, central to the way we
view ourselves in the world, and, as this volume will confirm, causal for many life outcomes.
As editors, we resign ourselves fully to agreement with the “pursuit of happiness” being an
essential human right. Importantly, however, according to Benjamin Franklin, “The
Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” This is where the handbook can be most useful, by offering us some keys to the essence
of happiness and the means for its lifelong pursuit.
Abdallah, S., Thompson, S., Michaelson, J., Marks, N., & Steuer, N. (2009). The (un)happy
planet index 2.0: Why good lives don’t have to cost the Earth. London, UK: nef.
Davidson, R. J. (2005). Well-being and affective style: neural substrates and biobehavioural
correlates. In F. A. Huppert, N. Baylis, & B. Keverne. (Eds.) The science of well-being
(pp. 107–139). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81–84.
Diener, E., Suh, E., Lucas, R., & Smith, H. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.
Kahn, W. A. (1990). Psychological conditions of personal engagement and disengagement at
work. The Academy of Management Journal, 33, 692–724.
Lucas, R. E., & Dyrenforth, P. S. (2006). Does the existence of social relationships matter for
subjective well-being? In K. D. Vohs & E. J. Finkel (Eds.), Self and relationships: connecting
intrapersonal and interpersonal processes (pp. 254–273). New York: Guilford.
Matheson, K. (2011). Foreword. In National statistician’s reflections on the national debate on
measuring national well-being (p. 2). London: Office for National Statistics.
Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: The full life versus the empty life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 25–41.
Renwick, R., & Brown, I. (1996). The Centre for Health Promotion’s conceptual approach to
quality of life. In R. Renwick, I. Brown, & M. Nager (Eds.), Quality of life in health promotion
and rehabilitation: Conceptual approaches, issues and applications (pp. 75–86). Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ryff, C. D., & Keyes, C. L. M. (1995). The structure of psychological well-being revisited. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 69, 719–727.
Seligman, M. E. P., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction.
American Psychologist, 55, 5–14.
Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of
economic performance and social progress. Paris, France: The Commission.
Veenhoven, R. (1996). Developments in satisfaction research. Social Indicators Research, 37, 1–47.
Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 678–691.
World Health Organization (1946). Preamble to the Constitution as adopted by the International
Health Conference. Geneva: Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2.
P SYC HOL O G IC A L
A P P ROAC H E S TO
HA P P I N E S S
This page intentionally left blank
p s yc h o l o g i c a l
approach es to
joar vitters ø
University of Tromsø, Norway
In his book Novum Organum (1620), Sir Francis Bacon proposed that scientific knowledge
should be collected and organized to help civilizations learn how to develop a better world
(see Rees & Wakely, 2004). This message still speaks to the ultimate goals of academic
endeavors, and I can think of no domain better suited to fulfill this call from the
Enlightenment than the scientific study of happiness.
But even if philosophers of past centuries understood the importance of scientific knowledge, they might have been naive in understanding how such knowledge translates into
political wisdom. Advancement in cognitive psychology illustrates, for example, that wishful thinking and forceful metaphors often are more effective than facts and logical reasoning
when it comes to political decisions (Lakoff, 2008). For instance, 90% of the population in
the USA prefers a more equal distribution of wealth than today’s historic high inequality
level—some estimates suggest that the top 1% of Americans hold nearly 50% of the wealth
(Norton & Ariely, 2011). A stronger focus on the basic ingredients of a good life, on psychological rather than economic growth, might thus support democratic processes in creating
Secondly, since emotions and satisfaction are fundamental mechanisms in the process
of turning objective facts into subjective beliefs (e.g., Westen, 2007), happiness research
may also help push Bacon’s vision forward. In struggling to understand the qualities of a
good life, the science of well-being produces general knowledge on beliefs and decisionmaking.
On the surface, the idea of studying happiness scientifically may look naive. Hence, it is
quite understandable that it took time for the field to gain academic credibility. For example,
in Headley Cantril’s (1965) seminal work on life satisfaction, the term happiness does
not even appear in the index. And when Norman Bradburn intended to publish a book on
psychological approaches to happiness
happiness in the 1960s, he was advised against using the term “happiness” in the title—it was
deemed as too unscientific (Bradburn, 1969). But as the present handbook testifies, the professional view on happiness has changed dramatically since Bradburn published his book,
and so has the attitude in public discourse and among policy-makers.
For example, in February 2008 President Sarkozy of France created a commission to
report on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. The commission
was chaired by economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, and its report aimed to identify the limits of
gross domestic product (GDP) as an indicator of economic performance and social progress
(Stiglitz, Sen, & Fitoussi, 2009). The report emphasizes three areas which require further
attention by statistical offices and policy-makers: better measurement of the domestic
production of goods and services, the incorporation of sustainability considerations, and
the measurement of quality of life.
The Oxford Handbook of Happiness is written in the spirit of Francis Bacon and reflects
scientific approaches to several of the issues addressed in the Stiglitz report. The handbook
also documents the amazing development of methods and research designs in happiness
research. The field is no longer driven forward by surveys alone; a myriad of supplementary
techniques and empirical perspectives has emerged. Grounded in methodological and conceptual developments, the current section of the handbook paints a portrait of the most upto-date knowledge and insights of modern happiness research, while also giving glimpses
into its future.
The first section of the book opens with a spearheading idea about positive emotions. The
broaden-and-build theory is a successful integration of emotion theory in a well-being
framework, and it is presented by Anne Conway, Michele Tugade, Lahnna Catalino, and
Barbara Fredrickson in Chapter 3. Challenging the idea that positive emotions basically
serve the function of aimless activation or inactivity, Conway and coauthors review a
domain that has grown considerably over the last decade. A huge body of research now
exists to support the hypothesis that positive emotions broaden people’s momentary
thought–action repertoires and lead to actions that build enduring personal resources. As
for the broadening effect, the chapter shows how positive emotions stimulate expansive
attention and increased openness to experience. For instance, in one of the studies reviewed
in this chapter, it was shown that participants induced to experience positive mood demonstrated greater attention breadth as measured by an eye-tracking technology. As for the build
effect, the reasoning suggests that the benefits of broadened attention will add up over time
to build psychological, physical, and social resources. Again, evidence suggests that positive
emotions build intellectual resources, secure attachment, and cognition. For instance, one
experiment revealed how a skill-based meditation intervention, teaching participants to
self-generate positive emotions, was associated with improvements in self-acceptance, physical health, competence, improved relations with others, and sense of purpose in life. The
chapter concludes by anticipating the need for a better understanding of the nuances
between different positive emotions, and for improved modeling of the trajectories of
Chapter 4 deals with happiness from the point of view of cognition and decision-making.
In it, Dale Griffin and Richard Gonzales present the Endowment–Contrast (E–C) model
for measuring well-being. The framework was developed to account for observations that
run counter to rational decision theory, which simply assumes that individuals choose the
alternative that makes them most happy. Borrowing Tversky’s formal models for turning a
introduction to psychological approaches to happiness
complex problem into a testable analysis, the E–C model has been able to point out how the
“rational man” and other simplistic approaches to well-being are misleading guides to better
lives. The way people think about their lives can fundamentally change their preferences in
various situations. In other words, happiness is not just about the choices we make, but
also about how these choices are consumed. In order to understand subjective experiences
and how they are represented symbolically, we must realize that life satisfaction comes
from a combination of both the hedonic valence of events (endowments), and the standards
against which we evaluate the events (contrasts). The contrasts serve to counterbalance the
endowment, or valence, of the experience. For example, the impact of a positive event in the
past may reduce current life satisfaction because of contrast effects. The positive past sets up
a high standard against which the current state of affairs is evaluated. For similar reasons, a
negative event in the past may increase current life satisfaction because the negativity operates as a contrast. But the contrast effect is only active when the events they are referring to
are relevant for the evaluation. For instance, given that the current situation is dominated by
a positive mood, the evaluation of one’s life satisfaction is left untouched by contrast effects.
Hence, when an ongoing positive experience dominates the judgment, one’s life satisfaction
is a result of endowment effects only. These principles make the E–C model different from
the more widespread adaptations models of well-being, and they also separate it from the
“mood as information” approach. A series of examples are offered to illustrate these differences, and to clarify the model’s ability to explain why so many individual choices do not
increase life satisfaction.
In Chapter 5, Antonella Delle Fave presents a concept with an amazing history. Introduced
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi more than 30 years ago as a term unheard of by readers of scientific literature, “flow” is now a familiar term to a surprisingly high number of lay people
and scholars from all over the world. The flow phenomenon is hard to pin down conceptually, but basically it refers to an optimal experience that reflects a complex and highly structured state of consciousness. Under the right circumstances the flow state contributes to
personal development, social integration, and cultural change. Delle Fave reviews the historical roots and cultural consistency of the concept, which comprises a mixture of changeable and continuous feelings associated with concentrated action. She focuses on flow as a
dynamic and intrinsic mental state associated with challenging tasks that are perceived to be
in balance with perceived skills, and how this description seems to be recognized across age,
gender, and various cultural groups across the globe. Delle Fave further clarifies the diversity of assessment strategies that have been developed to capture this elusive phenomenon,
and she brings up the intriguing issue of cross-cultural validity of central concepts in flow
theory. For example, the English term “challenge” does not always translate easily to other
languages and cultural traditions. The chapter ends with suggestions concerning the possibility of developing flow-based interventions in various areas of our societies, and points out
promising future research agendas.
Chapter 6, by Alia Crum and Peter Salovey, explains the basic principles of emotional
intelligence and how it may assist in the pursuit of happiness. The premise of their message
is that emotions have functions. Emotions communicate, motivate, and facilitate, hence
they cannot be understood in the hedonic terminology of a subjective experience that
merely accounts for the balance between positive and negative affects. Emotions are not just
responses to circumstances, they also cause functional behavior. Crum and Salovey argue
that better lives can be cultivated first and foremost by a change in mindset. By learning
psychological approaches to happiness
about emotions—by becoming more emotionally intelligent—the full spectrum of our
feelings may be utilized to facilitate happier lives and more functional lifestyles. The metaphors people adopt, and the myths they perpetuate, shape emotional life and happiness levels. If emotions are perceived, used, understood, and managed more functionally, we will be
able to navigate our lives in more successful ways.
Will religious engagement lead to human flourishing? Or is it perhaps toxic? These questions give momentum to Chapter 7, by David Myers. It turns out that even if pretty good data
exist to throw light on the topic, the effect of religion on well-being is rather complicated.
For example, the happiest countries in the world, like Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia,
Canada, and the Netherlands, are relatively irreligious. On the other hand, there are several
irreligious nations represented at the low end of the list of healthy and flourishing nations,
exemplified by North Korea, China, Vietnam, and the former Soviet states. Similarly, if one
looks at differences between states within the USA, the most religious ones often reveal an
unfavorable well-being record. At the state level, religious engagement correlates with high
rates of crime and smoking, and with lower education and income. However, if the data are
analyzed at the level of individuals, the picture is reversed. People with high religious
engagement smoke less and commit fewer acts of crime than their less religious counterparts. Religious individuals also stand out as better citizens, since religious attendance
correlates positively with involvement in community service, jury duty, voting, charity
participation, and the frequency of talking with neighbors. Last but not least, self-reported
happiness correlates positively with religiousness. The associations found between religiosity and well-being illustrates the perils of the so-called ecological fallacy, which is to
(mistakenly) draw conclusions about individuals from data analyzed at an aggregated level.
Several of the examples provided in Myers’s chapter nicely illustrate this dilemma. However,
Myers carefully avoids the perils of the ecological fallacy in his analyses, and he concludes
that even if religion has had a mixed association with bigotry and tolerance, and also with
misery and well-being, it appears that on balance, religion tends to foster human virtues,
altruism, and happiness.
Unlike the other authors in this book, Patty Ferssizidis, Todd Kashdan, Rachel Marquart,
and Michael Steger take the experience of psychopathology as their point of departure.
Chapter 8 starts by looking at the harsh emotions in life—and then it looks back into the positive ones. This is a creative approach to well-being research and their chapter, which is entitled
“Positive Psychological Experiences and Psychopathology: A Self-Regulatory Perspective,”
gives an overview of how people with various psychological disorders experience positive
events and emotional states. The chapter examines the effect of psychopathology on functioning and finding meaning, and the authors review literature on how people suffering from
depression and anxiety actually do experience their lives. Basically, the impaired psychological
functioning that follows from psychopathological problems hampers emotional well-being.
Although there might be examples of positive growth in the pathological populations it is, on
balance, far better to be symptom free than suffering from anxieties and depression.
Interestingly, the drawbacks of pathology also turn out to reduce the quality of life for people
with too much positive emotion, such as mania and hypomania. For example, these groups are
frequently reported to be more irritable and more maladaptive in their striving after achievement. The lack of meaning and positive emotion experienced among people with various psychological disorders is interpreted as dysfunctional self-regulating processes. The chapter
introduction to psychological approaches to happiness
concludes that, in order to improve our understanding of how daily experiences facilitate
positive functioning and well-being, better strategies for investigating the depth and breadth
of meaningful and rewarding experiences should be developed in future research.
Happiness is typically considered to be the ultimate dependent variable of social sciences.
But some researchers have turned this idea upside down and started to ask if being a
happy person also raises the likelihood of accruing rewards in important domains of life.
The ninth chapter of the book, by Katherine Jacobs Bao and Sonja Lyubomirsky, provides a
closer look at this promising perspective. The authors define happiness as the frequent experience of positive emotions, and they use terms such as positive affect, pleasant mood, and
high well-being when referring to individuals who often experience positive emotions. With
this stance, Jacobs Bao and Lyubomirsky show how happiness promotes a series of benefits
and values for individuals who are fortunate to have a lot of it. For example, a good mood
strengthens people’s immune system, and this finding is replicated in both longitudinal and
experimental research. The chapter further argues that the frequent experience of positive
affect plays a causal role in the attainment of success. The reason is that positive affect helps
build skill and motivates people to approach people and situations. For example, happy people are more likely to get married and to stay so, and happy people seem better able to obtain
a job and feel more financially independent. Positive emotions also signal that things are
going well, which allows people to feel more safe and secure as they approach novel situations. For instance, studies show that happy people are better at so-called “active coping”
which helps build “upward spirals” toward health and well-being. The chapter also points to
some of the benefits of negative emotions, but concludes that for the long-term effects, a
stable positive disposition outweighs a negative one.
William Pavot and Ed Diener have written the last chapter of the section (Chapter 10). It
presents the most recent findings regarding the experience of happiness and it looks to
future research opportunities. The authors provide an overview of well-being theories and
measurement traditions in happiness research, and pay particular interest to the issue of
top-down versus bottom-up theories. The former refers to the view that happiness can be
attributed to long-lasting propensities that predispose an individual to have certain experiences. Bottom-up theories, on the other hand, claim that an individual’s overall happiness
represents a summation of the ongoing negative and positive experiences over a lifetime.
Based on this framework, the chapter presents updated studies on the correlates of happiness, such as the relationship between subjective well-being and gender, age, and material
status. Pavot and Diener give a thorough review of the association between personality and
subjective well-being, as well as the latest studies on happiness and heritability. The growing
interest in cultural aspects of happiness research is well covered in the chapter, which ends
with an interesting discussion of the life outcomes of happy individuals and happy societies.
Better social relationships, better health, and better psychological functioning, the chapter
argues, are among the benefits of happiness. As for future directions, Pavot and Diener point
to the need for a better understanding of the relation between subjective well-being and psychological well-being.
A good society is populated by happy people. And even if there is not one correct answer
to the question of what it means for a person to be happy, the following chapters offer a unique
step towards a fuller understanding of this fascinating, persistent and gigantic issue. This
section clearly contributes valuable knowledge for the gradual development of a better world.
psychological approaches to happiness
Bradburn, N. M. (1969). The structure of psychological well-being. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Cantril, H. (1965). The pattern of human concerns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
Lakoff, G. (2008). The political mind. Why you can’t understand 21st-century politics with an
18th-century brain. New York, NY: Viking.
Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2011). Building a better America—One wealth quintile at a time.
Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 9–12.
Rees, G., & Wakely, M. (Eds.). (2004). The instauratio magna. Part II: Novum organum and
associated texts. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.
Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of
economic performance and social progress. Paris, France: Commission.
Westen, D. (2007). The political brain. New York, NY: PublicAffairs.
the broaden-andbuild theory of
p ositive emotions:
form, function, and
anne m. conway 1 , michele m. tugade 2 ,
lahnna i. catalino 3 , and
barbara l. fredrickson3
1Columbia University, USA; 2Vasar College, USA;
3University of North Carolina, USA
Many of the most wonderful moments in life are infused with positive emotions. We may
feel joy playing with children; love sharing with family members; and awe in the presence
of natural beauty. During these moments, we feel a subjective sense of pleasure. Positive
emotions feel good. But, beyond just feeling good, do positive emotions serve any function
for us in either the short or long term?
Across the past decade, questions such as these have led to an explosion of research
and significant advances in our understanding of positive emotions. In this chapter, we
present the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001, 2004)
as a framework for addressing these questions and understanding the nature, origins, and
consequences of positive emotions. Next, we review evidence supporting the first part of the
theory—the broaden effect—with a particular focus on attention and cognitive flexibility.
Then we review evidence supporting the second part of the theory—the build effect—which
has implications for lifespan development. Taken together, this work underscores the role of
positive emotions in generating long-term resources such as well-being and resilience. We
consider possible mechanisms underlying the broaden and build effects and provide
evidence for the undo effect of positive emotions. Finally, we conclude with directions for
psychological approaches to happiness
of Positive Emotions
The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions was proposed to account for the unique
effects of positive versus negative emotions that could not be explained by existing theories
of emotions. For example, according to numerous theories (Frijda, 1986; Lazarus, 1991;
Levenson, 1994), emotions were viewed as engendering specific behavioral action tendencies. Fear fueled the urge to escape, whereas anger sparked attack, and so on. From an evolutionary perspective, the specific action tendencies paired with discrete emotions functioned
to ensure human ancestors’ survival. Each discrete emotion had a specific action tendency,
and consequently, served an adaptive function. Yet, unlike negative emotions such as fear
and anger, the specific action tendencies of positive emotions were less specified. Compared
to the action urges generated by negative emotions, those generated by positive emotions
are considerably less clear and specific and in some cases, may call forth the action of “not
acting.” For example, joy and contentment appear to generate aimless activation and inactivity,
respectively (Frijda, 1986). Such vagueness and lack of specificity led to the proposal that
positive emotions may, in fact, serve functions quite distinct from negative emotions. But if
not to act to enhance immediate survival, what, if any, function do positive emotions serve?
According to the broaden-and-build theory, rather than fueling specific action tendencies,
positive emotions appear to spark broadened and expansive thought–action tendencies. They
affect our thoughts and attention, and by leading to broadened and expansive attention, positive emotions fuel flexible and creative thinking and problem-solving approaches, which
accumulate and build long-term psychological, physical, and social resources (Fredrickson,
1998, 2001, 2004). These new resources, in turn, would have increased the odds that human
ancestors survived subsequent threats to life and limb.
In the following sections, we describe these two central effects of the broaden-and-build
theory—the broaden effect and the build effect—and provide supporting evidence across a
variety of domains. Toward that end, we first address the following questions: (1) What is a
broadened thought–action repertoire? and (2) What evidence exists to support the claim
that positive emotions broaden thought–action repertoires?
The broaden effect
The broaden effect is a primary claim in the broaden-and-build theory. Rather than directly
fueling specific physical actions, positive emotions appear to generate non-specific, broadened cognitive changes, which may lead to behavioral changes (Fredrickson, 1998). Positive
emotions spark broad alterations in “thought–action” tendencies. One form in which positive emotions impact cognitive change is a broadened and expansive scope of attention.
Within this widened scope of attention, individuals experience and attend to a larger distribution that includes more features of the surround that may have otherwise been excluded.
the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions
This broaden effect is in direct contrast to the well-known narrowing effect of negative emotions on attention.
For example, a considerable body of research has documented that under conditions of
negative affect and threat, individuals engage in significantly more narrowed and focused
attention and selectively attend to negative information. Fear and anxiety have been reported
to narrow an individual’s attentional focus (Derryberry & Tucker, 1994; Mogg, Millar, &
Bradley, 2000; Mogg et al., 2000). Likewise, significant attention to threat has been demonstrated for anxious versus non-anxious individuals (for review see Bar-Haim, Lamy,
Pergamin, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & IJzendoorn, 2007). Anxious individuals show faster
attention and automatic engagement with threat-related versus neutral stimuli and slower
time to disengage (Fox, Russo, Bowles, & Dutton, 2001), reflecting effects at multiple stages
of information processing.
Like negative emotions, positive emotions also impact our attention and thought–action
repertoires, only they broaden rather than narrow them. Whereas negative emotions may
occur in threatening situations and constrict our attention to facilitate a quick response,
positive emotions generally occur in safe contexts and stimulate expansive attention, and
increase openness and receptivity to a range of experiences. To illustrate the unique effect
of positive emotions and broadened attention, we present a series of studies showing the
broadened attention effect. These include studies of visual attention utilizing global–local
processing, executive attention, and emotional information processing tasks.
Global–local processing tasks assess the extent to which participants attend to global and
holistic versus local and detailed features of a stimulus. One example includes an image
with two geometric figures: (1) a large letter “T” composed of five smaller letter “Ls,” and
(2) a large letter “L” composed of five smaller letter “Ts.” Participants are asked to find the
letter “T” as quickly as possible requiring them to make a decision about a figure based on
holistic (global) or elemental (local) features.
Utilizing a measure like this, research supports the effect of positive emotions widening
attentional scope. In one experiment, participants were induced to feel positive, negative, or
neutral states by watching film clips (Fredrickson & Branigan, 2005). Participants who
viewed the positive emotion films were more likely to show a global preference compared
to the other conditions. In another experiment, participants who frequently smiled were
faster at recognizing global targets relative to local targets (Johnson, Waugh, & Fredrickson,
2010). Frequent smiling improved the ability to process information holistically.
Positive emotions have also been found to impact attention on traditional executive attention tasks. In a study conducted by Rowe, Hirsh, and Anderson (2007), broadened attention
following positive emotion was assessed with the Eriksen flanker task (Eriksen & Eriksen,
1974). Participants were presented with a screen with a central target flanked by congruent
(e.g., “NNNNN”) or incongruent (e.g., “EENEE”) adjacent stimuli. Response slowing is typically observed when the central target is flanked by incompatible stimuli. Target/distractor
distance was also manipulated (“E E N E E”) and results revealed a significant effect of positive affect on attentional breadth. Compared to sad and neutral conditions, the positive
affect condition showed significantly greater reaction time to incongruent versus congruent
stimuli. This response slowing was also demonstrated for trials with the greatest target/
distractor distance providing evidence for increased attentional scope, facilitating inclusion
of peripheral information.
psychological approaches to happiness
Additional evidence supporting the broadened attentional effect of positive emotions
derives from studies of affective picture processing. Utilizing eye-tracking technology, participants’ eye movements (in response to affective pictures) were assessed following positive
mood induction (Wadlinger & Isaacowitz, 2006). Results revealed that those who were
induced to experience positive mood demonstrated greater attention breadth while viewing
pictures. This included longer fixation to peripheral aspects of images. Interestingly, fixation
and broadened attention were longer for positive versus negative and neutral images. This
evidence for attentional expansion following positive affect, coupled with elaborate processing of positive stimuli, suggests potentially important directions for future studies of mechanisms underlying thought–action tendencies, such as a possible motivation or incentive to
maintain an even greater expansion of attention. We elaborate on this proposal in later sections. Next, however, we describe the broaden effects on cognition.
Another form that positive emotions take involves the broadened influence on cognition, or
more specifically, increased cognitive flexibility and creativity. As with expanding attention,
positive emotions also broaden and expand one’s thinking to allow for greater flexibility,
creativity, and the generation of unusual and innovative problem solving. Positive emotions
motivate individuals to pursue novel, creative, and unscripted paths of thought and action
(Fredrickson, 1998) and “give[s] rise to an enlarged cognitive context” (Isen, 1987, p. 222).
Classic research by Isen and colleagues provides striking evidence for positive emotions’
effects on flexible and innovative thinking. Those experiencing positive affect have named
more unusual associations to neutral words, used more inclusive categories, and generated
novel problem solving strategies (Ashby, Isen, & Turken, 1999). In one experiment, participants were induced to feel positive or neutral emotions and then completed Mednicks’
Remote Associates Test, which requires individuals to generate a word that relates to three
other words (Isen, Daubman, & Nowicki, 1987). In this experiment, participants induced to
feel positive emotions generated more correct answers than those induced to feel neutral
emotions, demonstrating a broadened scope of cognitive flexibility.
Positive emotions also broaden cognition as demonstrated by generating creative and
novel uses for everyday objects. When given a problem to solve using a candle, a box of
thumbtacks, and a book of matches, Isen and colleagues (1987) found that 75% of the participants who were induced to feel positive emotions were able to solve the problem, compared
to 20% of the neutral and 13% of the negative groups. Likewise, positive emotions broadened
cognition by facilitating problem solving in studies in which participants were asked to generate unusual uses for everyday objects (Ziv, 1976).
Positive emotions also appear to influence participants’ thoughts about actions in which
they would like to engage. Specifically, Fredrickson and Branigan (2005) reported that compared to those in negative and neutral conditions, participants induced to experience positive emotions generated a large and varied list of behaviors in which they wanted to engage.
This study provides intriguing findings on the effect of positive emotions on broadened
cognition and desired behavior and possible influences on thought–action repertoires.
Could an additional feature of positive emotions be to spark reward-seeking behavior following broadened cognition? We address this question later. Next, however, we address
another important effect of positive emotions—how we view and understand others.
the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions
The broadened effect on social cognition refers to an expansion of how we view ourselves in
relation to others. As with attention and cognition, positive emotions widen and expand
our interpersonal scope and promote flexible and creative ways of processing social information. One of these areas includes how one views the self an…
Purchase answer to see full
Why Choose Us
- 100% non-plagiarized Papers
- 24/7 /365 Service Available
- Affordable Prices
- Any Paper, Urgency, and Subject
- Will complete your papers in 6 hours
- On-time Delivery
- Money-back and Privacy guarantees
- Unlimited Amendments upon request
- Satisfaction guarantee
How it Works
- Click on the “Place Your Order” tab at the top menu or “Order Now” icon at the bottom and a new page will appear with an order form to be filled.
- Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER DETAILS" section.
- Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline, and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
- Click “CREATE ACCOUNT & SIGN IN” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record-keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
- From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.