Social Indicators Research

, Volume 119, Issue 1, pp 321–339 | Cite as

Lay Conceptions of Well-Being Among Undergraduate Students from the United States and South Korea: Culture-Level Differences and Correlates

  • Ethan A. McMahanEmail author
  • Seungah Ryu
  • Incheol Choi


The current research provides a descriptive and comparative assessment of lay conceptions of well-being in undergraduate student samples from South Korea and the United States. The objectives of the current research were (1) to examine potential cross-cultural variability in the degree to which the experience of pleasure, avoidance of negative experience, self-development, and contribution are emphasized in the lay conceptions of well-being espoused by undergraduate students in South Korea and the United States, and (2) to investigate potential cross-cultural variability in associations between each of the above dimensions and multiple indicators of experienced well-being. To address these objectives, samples were drawn from universities in the United States and South Korea, and self-report instruments measuring the constructs of interest were administered. Results indicated that the South Korean sample emphasized the experience of pleasure and avoidance of negative experience to a greater degree than the United States sample, whereas the United States sample emphasized contribution to others to a greater degree than the South Korean sample. Despite these differences, associations between lay conception of well-being dimensions and experienced well-being were largely similar across cultural groups.


Culture Lay conceptions Well-being Happiness Hedonics Eudaimonia 



This research was funded by a 2011 Research Grant from the Center for Happiness Studies at Seoul National University to the first author. The authors thank Lindsey M. King, Chanel K. Meyers, and Christopher Easton for their assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychological SciencesWestern Oregon UniversityMonmouthUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychology, Center for Happiness StudiesSeoul National UniversitySeoul 151-742Republic of Korea

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