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.
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English is the primary language of instruction at the University of Mumbai. Accordingly, it was natural and expected for student participants there to complete the questionnaire (perceived as an ‘academic’ exercise) in English. Of course, we cannot know if the results would have differed had the questions been administered in Marathi instead of English.
There was evidence that six indicators were enough to capture the primary criteria by which participants measure the worth of their lives. Supplementary investigation revealed that, on average, participants assigned 32% of the combined importance of the six indicators to the one they judged as most important and only 7% to the one they judged as least important. The corresponding figures in the peer-reference condition were 30 and 8%. These numbers suggest that asking participants to report more than six indicators would have risked including criteria that were peripheral to their personal concerns.
Preliminary modeling confirmed that the covariates did not interact significantly with the main predictors (homogeneity of covariance) for any of the 30 categories.
Again, preliminary modeling confirmed homogeneity of covariance for all three control variables.
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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.
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Tafarodi, R.W., Bonn, G., Liang, H. et al. What Makes for a Good Life? A Four-Nation Study. J Happiness Stud 13, 783–800 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-011-9290-6
- Good Life
- Indicator Category
- Healthy Family
- Miscellaneous Category
- Relative Importance Score