Research Paper

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 429-449

First online:

Subjective Wellbeing as an Affective-Cognitive Construct

  • Melanie T. DavernAffiliated withVicHealth Centre for the Promotion of Mental Health & Social Wellbeing, University of Melbourne
  • , Robert A. CumminsAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Deakin University Email author 
  • , Mark A. StokesAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Deakin University

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The affective content of Subjective Wellbeing (SWB) was investigated in two separate studies. Study 1 involved a representative sample of 478 participants from across Australia aged between 18 and 72 years. This study tested the circumplex model of affect and then determined the minimum set of affects that explain variance in SWB. The model was supported, with most affects congregated around the valence axis. Overall, 64% of the variance in SWB was explained by six Core Affects, indicating that SWB is a highly affective construct. Study 2 tested the relative strength of Core Affect (content, happy and excited), in three separate models of SWB incorporating cognition (seven discrepancies) and all five factors of personality. Using a sample of 854 participants aged been 18–86 years, structural equation modeling was used to compare an affective-cognitive driven model of SWB, with a personality driven model of SWB and a discrepancy driven model of SWB. The results provide support for an affective-cognitive model which explained 90 percent of the variance in SWB. All models confirm that the relationship between SWB, Core Affect and Discrepancies is far stronger than the relationship between personality and SWB. It is proposed that Core Affect and Discrepancies comprise the essence of SWB. Moreover, Core Affect is the driving force behind individual set-point levels in SWB homeostasis.


Subjective wellbeing Core affect Life satisfaction Homeostasis Personality