Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 37-69

First online:

Maintaining Life Satisfaction: The Role of Positive Cognitive Bias

  • Robert A. CumminsAffiliated withSchool of Psychology Deakin University
  • , Helen Nistico

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Recent research into population standards of life satisfaction has revealed a remarkable level of uniformity, with the mean values for Western populations clustering at around three-quarters of the measurement scale maximum. While this seems to suggest the presence of a homeostatic mechanism for life satisfaction, the character of such a hypothetical device is uncertain. This paper proposes that well-being homeostasis is controlled by positive cognitive biases pertaining to the self. Most particular in this regard are the positive biases in relation to self-esteem, control and optimism. Past controversies in relation to this proposition are reviewed and resolved in favour of the proposed mechanism. The empirical data to support this hypothesis are discussed in the context of perceived well-being as an adaptive human attribute.

life satisfaction homeostasis illusions positive cognitive bias self-esteem control optimism