Social Indicators Research

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 41-60

First online:

The Influence of Environment and Personality on the Affective and Cognitive Component of Subjective Well-being

  • Ulrich SchimmackAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Toronto, Mississauga (UTM) Email author 
  • , Jürgen SchuppAffiliated withGerman Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) and Free University of Berlin
  • , Gert G. WagnerAffiliated withBerlin University of Technology and German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)

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Subjective well-being (SWB) has two components: affective well-being (AWB) and cognitive well-being (CWB). The present study demonstrated that AWB and CWB have are influenced by different factors in a nationally representative sample in Germany (N = 1053). Neuroticism was a stronger predictor of AWB than CWB. Unemployment and regional differences between the East and West of Germany were stronger predictors of CWB than AWB. In addition, the study demonstrated that shared evaluative biases in personality and SWB ratings inflate estimates of the effect size of personality. After controlling for this bias, the effects of environmental factors (unemployment, regional differences) on CWB were stronger than the effects of personality (neuroticism). The results demonstrate that AWB and CWB are distinct components of SWB and that research findings for one component may not generalize to the other component. The results also raise important questions about the weighing of the two components in the creation of subjective social indicators.


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