Adopting a cultural psychological approach, we believe that culture and SWB are most productively analyzed together as a dynamic of mutual constitution. We outline a cultural theory of SWB to systematically analyze conceptions of happiness as embedded in both Euro-American and Asian cultures. Our cultural theory posits that distinct and different characteristics of the conceptions of happiness are prevalent in Asian and Euro-American cultures. For Asians, socially oriented SWB emphasizes role obligation and dialectical balance; for Euro-Americans, individually oriented SWB emphasizes personal accountability and explicit pursuit. The present paper provides empirical data on American conceptions of happiness and contrasts these with previously collected Chinese data. Both similarities and differences were observed and were in general consonant with our theoretical propositions.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Bauer, W.: 1976, China and the Search for Happiness: Recurring Themes in Four Thousand Years of Chinese Cultural History (The Seabury Press, New York).
Bruner, J.: 1990, Acts of Meaning (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA).
Chiang, C.M.: 1996, The Philosophy of Happiness: A History of Chinese Life Philosophy (In Chinese) (Hong Yie Publication Co., Taipei).
Diener, E. and M. Diener: 1995, ‘Cross-cultural correlates of life satisfaction and self-esteem’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 68, pp. 653–663.
Diener, E., M. Suh, H. Smith and L. Shao: 1995, ‘National and cultural differences in reported subjective well-being: Why do they occur?’, Social Indicators Research 31, pp. 103–157.
Diener, E., E. Suh, S. Oishi and Shao L.: 1996, ‘Norms for affect: National comparisons’, in Ninth Conference of International Society for Research on Emotions, Toronto, Canada.
Feather, N.T.: 1986, ‘Value systems across cultures: Australia and China’, International Journal of Psychology 21, pp. 697–715.
Geertz, C.: 1975, ‘On the nature of anthropological understanding’, American Scientist 63, pp. 47–53.
Headey, B. and A. Wearing: 1989, ‘Personality, life events, and subjective wellbeing: Toward a dynamic equilibrium Model’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 57, pp. 731–739.
Heine, S.J., D.R. Lehman, H.R. Markus and S. Kitayama: 1999, ‘Culture and the need for positive self-regard’, Psychological Review 106, pp. 766–794.
Hofstede, G.: 1980, Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-related Values (Sage, Newbury Park, CA).
Hong, Y.L.: 1944, History of Chinese Philosophy, ‘Yin–Yang’. (San-Wu Books, Beijing).
Hsu, F.L.K.: 1971, ‘Psycho-social homeostasis and Jen: Conceptual tools for advancing psychological anthropology’, American Anthropologist 73, pp. 23–44.
Hwang, K.K.: in press, ‘Morality: East and West’, in N.J. Smelser and P.B. Baltes (ed), International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Pergamon, Amsterdan).
Kim, U., H.C. Triandis, C. Kagitcibasi, S.C. Choi and G. Yoon (eds): 1994, Individualism and Collectivism: Theory, Method, and Application (Sage, London).
King, A.Y. and C.K. Napa: 1998, ‘What makes a good life?’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 75, pp. 156–165.
Kitayama, S. and H.R. Markus: 2000, ‘The pursuit of happiness and the realization of sympathy: Cultural patterns of self, social relations, and wellbeing’, in E. Diener and E.M. Sul (eds), Culture and Subjective Well-being (The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA), pp. 113–162.
Kwan, V.S.Y., M.H. Bond and T.M. Singelis: 1997, ‘Pancultural explanations for life satisfaction: Adding relationship harmony to self-esteem’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 73, pp. 1038–1051.
Lu, L.: 1995, ‘The relationship between subjective well-being and psychosocial variables in Taiwan’, The Journal of Social Psychology 135, pp. 351–357.
Lu, L.: 1998, ‘The meaning, measure, and correlates of happiness among Chinese people’, Proceedings of the National Science Council: Part C 8, pp. 115–137.
Lu, L.: 2001, ‘Understanding happiness: A look into the Chinese folk psychology’, Journal of Happiness Studies 2, pp. 407–432.
Lu, L. and J.B. Shih: 1997, ‘Sources of happiness: A qualitative approach’, Journal of Social Psychology 137, pp. 181–187.
Lu, L., R. Gilmour and S.F. Kao: 2001a, ‘Culture values and happiness: An East–West dialogue’, Journal of Social Psychology 141, pp. 477–493.
Lu, L., R. Gilmour, S.F. Kao, T.H. Eng, C.H. Hu, J.G. Chern, S.W. Huang and J.B. Shih: 2001b, ‘Two ways to achieve happiness: When the East meets the West’, Personality and Individual Differences 30, pp. 1161–1174.
Lu, L., & Gilmour, R. (2004). Culture, self and ways to achieve SWB: A crosscultural analysis.Journal of Psychology in Chinese Societies, 5, 51–79.
Markus, H.R. and S. Kitayama: 1991, ‘Culture and the self: Implication for cognition, emotion, and motivation’, Psychological Review 98, pp. 224–253.
Markus, H.R. and S. Kitayama: 1998, ‘The cultural psychology of personality’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 29, pp. 63–87.
Minami, H.: 1971, Psychology of the Japanese People (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada).
Ratzlaff, C., D. Matsumoto, N. Kouznetsova, J. Raroque and Ray R.: 2000, ‘Individual psychological culture and subjective well-being’, in E. Diener and E.M. Sul (eds), Culture and Subjective Well-being (The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA), pp. 37–60.
Shweder, R.A.: 1991, Thinking Through Cultures: Expeditions in Cultural Psychology (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA).
Shweder, R.A.: 1998, Welcome to Middle Age! (and Other Cultural Fiction) (University of Chicago Press, Chicago).
Shweder, R.A., J. Goodnow, G. Hatano, R. LeVine, H. Markus and P. Miller: 1998, ‘The cultural psychology of development: One mind, many mentalities’, in W. Damon (ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology: Theoretical Models of Human Development (Vol. 1) (Wiley, New York).
Suh, E.M.: 2000, ‘Self, the hyphen between culture and subjective well-being’, in E. Diener and E.M. Sul (eds), Culture and Subjective Well-being (The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA), pp. 63–86.
Triandis, H.C.: 1994, Culture and Social Behavior (McGraw-Hill, New York).
Yang, K.S.: 1995, ‘Chinese social orientation: An integrative analysis’, in T.Y. Lin, W.S. Tseng and E.K. Yeh (eds), Chinese Societies and Mental Health (Oxford University Press, Hong Kong), pp. 19–39.
Yu, A. B., and Yang, K. S.: 1994, ‘The nature of achievement motivation in collectivist societies,’ in U. Kim, H. C. Triandis, C. Kagitc¸ ibasi, S. C. Choi and G. Yoon (eds), Individualism and Collectivism: Theory, Method, and Application, (Sage, London), pp. 239–250.
About this article
Cite this article
Lu, L., Gilmour, R. Culture and conceptions of happiness: individual oriented and social oriented swb. Journal of Happiness Studies 5, 269–291 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-004-8789-5
- conceptions of happiness
- cultural psychological approach
- individual oriented SWB
- social oriented SWB