, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 227-246

Lay Theories of Happiness

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Abstract

Over 230 young people completed a battery of questionnaires measuring personality, self-esteem, and happiness as well as one developed specifically for this study on their “theories of the causes of happiness”. The 36 causes factored into six internally coherent and interpretable factors. Self-reported happiness, extraversion and sex were correlated with the lay theory factors. Four of the six factors were modestly (r < 0.20) correlated with the Oxford Happiness Inventory (OHI) scores. Path analysis, using the OHI as the dependent variable, showed self-esteem, extraversion and neuroticism direct predictors of happiness but that among the lay theories, only lay theories about optimism and contentment were direct predictors. Personality and demographic variables did predict the lay theories but the latter did not act as moderator or mediating factors between the former and happiness. The role and function of lay theories with respect to happiness are discussed.