Skip to main content
Log in

Measures of self-reported well-being: their affective, cognitive, and other components

  • Published:
Social Indicators Research Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

This investigation begins from the hypothesis that social indicators of perceived well-being — e.g., people's assessment of their own life quality — will, like other attudes, reflect two basic types of influences: affect and cognition. In addition, the indicators were expected to include two other components: unique variance (mainly random measurement error) and correlated measurement error. These ideas are investigated using a structural modeling approach applied to 23 assessments of life-as-a-whole from a national survey of Americans (N=1072) and/or a survey of urban residents in England (N=932). In both sets of data, models that included affective and cognitive factors fit significantly better than more restricted models. Furthermore, as expected, measures of (a) ‘happiness’, ‘fun’, and ‘enjoyment’ tended to be relatively more loaded with affect than were measures of (b) ‘satisfaction’, ‘success’, and ‘meeting needs’; and (c) measures designed to tap both affect and cognition tended to fall between the first two groups. In addition, the results suggest that measures employing relatively many scale points and direct assessments yield more valid indicators of people's evaluations of life-as-a-whole than do measures based on three-point scales or on explicit comparisons with other times or groups. These results contribute to basic knowledge about the nature of life quality assessments, help to explain some previously puzzling relationships with demographic factors such as age and education, and may be useful to designers of future studies of perceived well-being.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Bibliography

  • AbramsM. A.: 1973, ‘Subjective social indicators’, Social Trends No. 4 (London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office).

    Google Scholar 

  • AbramsM. A.: 1976, A review of work on subjective social indicators: 1971–1975 (London, Social Science Research Council Survey Unit).

    Google Scholar 

  • AllardtE.: 1973, About dimensions of welfare: An exploratory analysis of a comparative Scandinavian survey (Helsinki, University of Helsinki Research Group for Comparative Sociology).

    Google Scholar 

  • AllportG. W.: 1935, ‘Attitudes’, in C.Murchison (ed.) Handbook of Social Psychology, (Worcester, Mass., Clark University Press), pp. 798–884.

    Google Scholar 

  • AndrewsF. M. and S. B.Withey: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-being: Americans' Perceptions of Life Quality (New York, Plenum).

    Google Scholar 

  • Blishen, B. and T. Atkinson: 1978, Anglophone and Francophone differences in perceptions of the quality of life in Canada (Paper presented to the 9th World Congress of Sociology, Uppsala, Sweden).

  • BradburnN. M.: 1969, The Structure of Psychological Well-being (Chicago, Aldine).

    Google Scholar 

  • BrennerB.: 1975, ‘Quality of affect and self-evaluated happiness’, Social Indicators Research 2, pp. 315–331.

    Google Scholar 

  • BurtR. S.: 1976, ‘Interpretational confounding of unobserved variables in structural equation models’, Sociological Methods and Research 5, pp. 3–52.

    Google Scholar 

  • CampbellA., P. E.Converse and W. L.Rodgers: 1976, The Quality of American Life: Perceptions, Evaluations, Satisfactions (New York, Russell Sage Foundation).

    Google Scholar 

  • CantrilH.: 1965, The Pattern of Human Concerns (New Brunswick N.J., Rutgers University Press).

    Google Scholar 

  • CherlinA. and L. G.Reeder: 1975, ‘The dimensions of psychological well-being’, Sociological Methods and Research 4, pp. 189–214.

    Google Scholar 

  • CochranW. G.: 1968, ‘The effectiveness of adjustment by subclassifications in removing bias in observational studies’, Biometrics 24, pp. 295–313.

    Google Scholar 

  • ConnerR. J.: 1972, ‘Grouping for testing trends in categorical data’, Journal of the American Statistical Association 67, pp. 601–604.

    Google Scholar 

  • FishbeinM. and I.Ajzen: 1975, Belief, Attitude, Intention, and Behavior (Reading, Mas., Addison-Wesley).

    Google Scholar 

  • GableR. K., A. D.Roberts and S. V.Owen: 1977, ‘Affective and cognitive components of classroom achievement’, Educational and Psychological Measurement 37, pp. 977–986.

    Google Scholar 

  • HallJ.: 1976, ‘Subjective measures of quality of life in Britain: 1971 to 1975 — some developments and trends’, Social Trends No. 7 (London, Her Majesty's Stationery Office).

    Google Scholar 

  • InskoC. A. and J.Schopler: 1967, ‘Triadic consistency: A statement of affective-cognitive-conative consistency’, Psychological Review 74, pp. 361–376.

    Google Scholar 

  • JoreskogK. G. and D.Sorbom: 1976, LISREL III: Estimation of Structural Equation Systems by Maximum Likelihood Methods (Chicago, National Educational Resources, Inc.).

    Google Scholar 

  • LandK. C. and M.Felson: 1978, ‘Sensitivity analysis of arbitrarily identified simultaneous-equation models’, Sociological Methods and Research 6, pp. 283–307.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGuideW. J.: 1968, ‘The nature of attitudes and attitude change’, in G.Lindzey, and E.Aronson, (eds.) The Handbook of Social Psychology (2nd edition), Vol. 3 Reading, Mass., Addison-Wesley).

    Google Scholar 

  • McKennellA. C.: 1978, ‘Cognition and affect in perceptions of well-being’, Social Indicators Research 5, pp. 389–426.

    Google Scholar 

  • McKennell, A. C. and F. M. Andrews: 1980, ‘Models for cognition and affect in the perception of well-being’, Social Indicators Research, in press.

  • McNemarQ.: 1962, Psychological Statistics, Third Edition (New York, Wiley).

    Google Scholar 

  • MorrisonD. E. and R. E.Henkel (eds.): 1970, The Significance Test Controversy (Chicago, Aldine).

    Google Scholar 

  • OstromT. M.: 1969, ‘The relationship between the affective, behavioral and cognitive components of attitude’, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 5, pp. 12–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • RamsayJ. O.: 1973, ‘The effect of number of categories in rating scales on precision of estimation of scale values’, Psychometrika 38, pp. 513–532.

    Google Scholar 

  • SmithT. W.: 1978, Happiness: Time trends, seasonal variations, inter-survey differences and other matters. (Unpublished GSS Technical Report No. 6. Chicago, National Opinion Research Center).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

We are grateful to John Hall and Mark Abrams for providing us with a copy of their data, to Mary Grace Moore for data processing, and to Suzanne Gurney for typing assistance. Grant #SOC77-06525 from the National Science Foundation supported the analysis reported here. Some of these results were presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association, New York, 1979.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Andrews, F.M., McKennell, A.C. Measures of self-reported well-being: their affective, cognitive, and other components. Soc Indic Res 8, 127–155 (1980). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00286474

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00286474

Keywords

Navigation