Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 783–800 | Cite as

What Makes for a Good Life? A Four-Nation Study

  • Romin W. TafarodiEmail author
  • Greg Bonn
  • Hanyu Liang
  • Jiro Takai
  • Satoshi Moriizumi
  • Vivek Belhekar
  • Amruta Padhye
Research Paper


How do we assess the value of our lives? What makes the life we live a good or worthy one in our own eyes? What are its aims? The answers to these questions are implicit in the often unarticulated commitments by which people define their selves, purposes, and actions. These commitments structure the moral framework that guides our everyday qualitative distinctions and positions us within a unified narrative of continuity and change. The substantive conception of a good life, we argue, presupposes but is not reducible to a set of basic values. As an initial exploration of cultural variation, Canadian, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese university students were compared on what they held to be most important for assessing the worth of their lives. The results revealed considerable commonality of content with notable differences consistent with the cultural ethos of each group.


Good Life Indicator Category Healthy Family Miscellaneous Category Relative Importance Score 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was supported by a Standard Research Grant (410-2006-1127) from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the first author. We thank Mayumi Tsukamoto for her assistance with translation and Yas Nishikawa for his assistance with coding.


  1. Allison, P. D. (1999). Logistic regression using the SAS system: Theory and application. Cary, NC: SAS Institute Inc.Google Scholar
  2. Allison, P. D. (2008). Convergence failures in logistic regression (No. 360-2008). Cary, NC: SAS Institute.Google Scholar
  3. Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large: Cultural dimensions of globalization. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  4. Appiah, K. A. (2006). Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a world of strangers. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  5. Benedict, R. (1934). Patterns of culture. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  6. Bond, M. H., Leung, K., Au, A., Tong, K.-K., & Chemonges-Nielson, Z. (2004). Combining social axioms with values in predicting social behaviours. European Journal of Personality, 18, 177–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1990). The logic of practice (R. Nice, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press (Original work published 1980).Google Scholar
  8. Dewey, J. (1939). Theory of valuation. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. Diggle, P. J., Heagerty, P., Liang, K.-Y., & Zeger, S. L. (2002). Analysis of longitudinal data (2nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Elliott, A., & Lemert, C. (2009). The new individualism: The emotional costs of globalization (Revised ed. ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  11. Fei, X. (1992). From the soil: The foundations of Chinese society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. (Original work published 1948).Google Scholar
  12. Freeman, M., & Brockmeier, J. (2001). Narrative integrity: Autobiographical identity and the meaning of the “good life”. In J. Brockmeier & D. Carbaugh (Eds.), Narrative and identity: Studies in autobiography, self, and culture (pp. 75–99). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  13. Harvey, D. (2009). Cosmopolitanism and the geographies of freedom. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Held, D., & McGrew, A. (2007). Globalization/anti-globalization: Beyond the great divide (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Inglehart, R. (2006). Mapping global values. Comparative Sociology, 5, 115–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Leung, K., & Bond, M. H. (2004). Social axioms: A model for social beliefs in multicultural perspective. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 119–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lindeman, M., & Verkasalo, M. (2005). Measuring values with the Short Schwartz Value Survey. Journal of Personality Assessment, 85, 170–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. MacIntyre, A. (1981). After virtue: A study in moral theory. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  20. Matsumoto, D. (2002). The new Japan: Debunking seven cultural stereotypes. Boston, MA: Intercultural Press.Google Scholar
  21. McDowell, J. (1998). Mind, value, and reality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Morris, C. W. (1956). Varieties of human value. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mullatti, L. (1995). Families in India: Beliefs and realities. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 26, 11–25.Google Scholar
  24. Nussbaum, M. C. (1997). Cultivating humanity: A classical defense of reform in liberal education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Rokeach, M. (1973). The nature of human values. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  26. Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 25, 1–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Schwartz, S. H. (2006). A theory of cultural value orientations: Explication and applications. Comparative Sociology, 5, 137–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Schwartz, S. H., & Boehnke, K. (2004). Evaluating the structure of human values with confirmatory factor analysis. Journal of Research in Personality, 38, 230–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Taylor, C. (1985). Human agency and language: Philosophical papers 1. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Taylor, C. (1989). Sources of the self: The making of the modern identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Twenge, J. M., & King, L. A. (2005). A good life is a personal life: Relationship fulfillment and work fulfillment in judgments of life quality. Journal of Research in Personality, 39, 336–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Westermarck, E. (1912–1917). The origin and development of the moral ideas (Vols. 1 and 2, 2nd ed.). London: Macmillan and Co., Limited.Google Scholar
  33. White, H. A. (1980). A heteroskedasticity-consistent covariance matrix estimator and a direct test for heteroskedasticity. Econometrica, 48, 817–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wierzbicka, A. (2009). What makes a good life? A cross-linguistic and cross-cultural perspective. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 260–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Romin W. Tafarodi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Greg Bonn
    • 1
  • Hanyu Liang
    • 1
  • Jiro Takai
    • 2
  • Satoshi Moriizumi
    • 2
  • Vivek Belhekar
    • 3
  • Amruta Padhye
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Nagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  3. 3.University of MumbaiMumbaiIndia

Personalised recommendations