Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 735–762

Pursuing Pleasure or Virtue: The Differential and Overlapping Well-Being Benefits of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Motives

Research Paper

Abstract

Hedonia (seeking pleasure and comfort) and eudaimonia (seeking to use and develop the best in oneself) are often seen as opposing pursuits, yet each may contribute to well-being in different ways. We conducted four studies (two correlational, one experience-sampling, and one intervention study) to determine outcomes associated with activities motivated by hedonic and eudaimonic aims. Overall, results indicated that: between persons (at the trait level) and within persons (at the momentary state level), hedonic pursuits related more to positive affect and carefreeness, while eudaimonic pursuits related more to meaning; between persons, eudaimonia related more to elevating experience (awe, inspiration, and sense of connection with a greater whole); within persons, hedonia related more negatively to negative affect; between and within persons, both pursuits related equally to vitality; and both pursuits showed some links with life satisfaction, though hedonia’s links were more frequent. People whose lives were high in both eudaimonia and hedonia had: higher degrees of most well-being variables than people whose lives were low in both pursuits (but did not differ in negative affect or carefreeness); higher positive affect and carefreeness than predominantly eudaimonic individuals; and higher meaning, elevating experience, and vitality than predominantly hedonic individuals. In the intervention study, hedonia produced more well-being benefits at short-term follow-up, while eudaimonia produced more at 3-month follow-up. The findings show that hedonia and eudaimonia occupy both overlapping and distinct niches within a complete picture of well-being, and their combination may be associated with the greatest well-being.

Keywords

Pleasure Hedonism Eudaimonia Virtue Well-being Elevation 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in PsychologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

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